Mini case studies

Below you will see a series of recordings that display how students gradually acquired skills in communication within the videoconferencing meetings. Students were told they had to submit one recording of their interaction for dissemination purposes. This was so that they would have a free hand to discuss all the elements they wanted to discuss in private most of the time, and only have one meeting in which they had to be circumspect. Some students chose to submit a rehearsed and evidently performed recording. Other meetings may have been actual genuine meetings, but these are all self-selected by the students with the understanding that they will be more widely heard, so the authenticity must be judged with this in mind.

Semester 1

In the first video extract (above) you can see how the students treat the interaction very much like a telephone conversation with pictures. They do not project themselves within the space on screen and do not use the image available to both ends to communicate. When discussing the plans you can hear them conversing about the plans and explaining where to look on the plans, but do not project these onto the screen so they have a shared view and understanding of the topic under discussion. You can see the full meeting at this link.

In the second video extract (above) the same group are having a second meeting. The Canadian students are attempting to explain their plan for converting the building being redeveloped incrementally, by closing down one section at a time. They are not getting their ideas across until one of the students says “ok yeah we’ll show you on the screen” at 46s. The point is very easy to find on the video, because the first half is very static, the second half involves lots of switching between images and using the screen to communicate. The transformation is from a sense of being located in separate physical spaces to one of being copresent in a shared virtual space. You can see the full meeting at this link.

In the third video extract (above) a different group have evidently adapted to the screen much more quickly. This is earlier on chronologically for them, but it shows a more matured point in the transition to on-screen thinking. Images are quickly switched, software packages are pulled up and closed as appropriate and images are annotated in real time. The participants use the cursor and the drawing tool to gesticulate and focus attention and use these tools to create a strong (relative to the limited nature of a cursor) sense of social presence and dynamism. Click here to view the full meeting: in the longer version the higher degree of socialisation is also evident, indicating that this sense of presence is developing social contracts between them.

Semester 2

In the second set of videos, which are all taken from the second semester, there are fewer differences to be seen as all of the participants have reached this level of interaction. An analysis of the videos from this period indicates several differences between the online meetings in semester 2 when compared with semester 1:

  1. Meetings are shorter. The recordings made of semester 1 meetings are an hour long on average, semester 2 meetings are only 28 minutes long.
  2. Meetings are more dynamic and focused. Switches between applications take place every 2 mins in one meeting, every 5 mins in another. This is a contrast with semester 1 where the same image sometimes stayed on the screen for up to 25 mins.
  3. Information is shared effectively asynchronously which means that less needs to be shared during the meetings. In fact one meeting ends with the statement that “we don’t need to have another meeting because we are sharing emails so fast”.
  4. Participants are invited to ask questions at the end of presentations by name, to ensure everyone gets to speak.
  5. The videos show higher social commitment to each other, in general. In the majority of the videos, students thank each other for the promptness in replying to emails, and suggest keeping in touch beyond the end of the project (possibly working on further projects) but one group selected to submit the recording in which their team-mates did not show up.

In the first example from Semester 2 (above), the video shows the constant movement between the different software packages, the high speed of communication, the relaxed nature of the interaction and the clarity of the process of moving through the management elements of the meeting, with specific tasks and closure at the end. Even when elements have been hand drawn the students have anticipated the need to show their teammates these drawings and so have created scans in advance in order to display them. In part the effectiveness in planning is not due to familiarity with the software; students stated that tasks became clearer as the projects progressed, however the efficiency with which the elements are discussed is distinctive.

In the second example from Semester 2 (above), we can clearly see some of the issues that arose due to new students joining the group after the first semester. The students that had been part of the group from the beginning of the first semester (who can be heard in example 3) have formed a close-knit group, exchanging information on Facebook and suggest continuing to communicate after the end of the project in the closing moments of the video. They express resentment that the newcomer students have not attended. The new students varied in the degree to which they integrated with the existing teams, as can be heard in the other recordings.

In the third example from Semester 2 (above), the high pace of communication can be observed, as well as a high degree of social cues such as laughter and exchange of off-topic information. The meeting is short (18 mins) but addresses all of the issues required and, as is stated in the meeting, longer meetings are not necessary as there is frequent exchanges by email. The students also discuss their unease at the meetings being recorded and analysed in the last five minutes of the meeting.