Communication via Videoconference

This post is part of a series examining articles on the communication aspects of videoconferencing.

Wegge, J. (2006). Communication via videoconference: Emotional and cognitive consequences of affective personality dispositions, seeing one’s own picture, and disturbing events. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 273 – 318. doi:10.1207/s15327051hci2103_1

From Amela Sadagics Megaconference V Digital Art Gallery
From Amela Sadagic's Megaconference V Digital Art Gallery

Comment: This study title made me laugh. How often have you seen “disturbing” events in a videoconference? I remember one of my coordinators telling the story of young students connecting to a zoo or museum – and the picture distorted due to packet loss. “She’s turning into a monster!,” one student said.

Reminds me of the collection of Megaconference-random-digital-art from Megaconference V in 2003. Switching pics between speakers has gotten a lot better, hasn’t it?!


This study included two experiments: one simulated an oral university examination via videoconference, and the second a consultation between a landlord and expert for real estate law. The author considered the oral exam to be an emotional experience, and the consultation would be more emotion neutral.

The study found that students who had high scores for test anxiety experienced more tension, less calmness and performed lower on the test. Wegge also found that the test anxiety is amplified when the participants saw a large picture of themselves. If they saw their picture in a small picture-in-picture, there was no performance differences between high- and low-anxious students.

The consultation experiment compared individuals with high negative affectivity and high positive affectivity and their experiences in a videoconference. Wegge found that individuals with high negative affectivity experienced negative emotions more intensely, and individuals with high positive affectivity experienced positive emotions more intensely. Is this because seeing yourself increases self-awareness and provides a special feedback loop? Interesting to consider. Wegge also found that when the participant saw their own picture, the emotions of dislike, anger, and shame were increased compared to when they didn’t see their own picture. These negative feelings were increased when there were technical or organizational problems in the videoconference. In the final analysis, Wegge found that when there were problems with the videoconference, the participants had more negative affective reactions, lower ratings on the quality of the counseling, and impaired memory for what they learned from the expert.

Application: PIP

So, what does this mean for us in K12 curriculum videoconferencing? One thing to consider is the placement of the picture-in-picture (PIP). My schools really like our VC carts; and the teacher can put down the remote so that the picture in picture goes away (via the “feet” on the Viewstation or VSX remote). Think of the carts with two huge monitors. While the vendors show them with the remote content on the second monitor (see pic); more often in K12 videoconferencing that second monitor has your picture in picture. Ever noticed kids misbehaving because they can see themselves? As I think about this more, I realize that unless you’re teaching full courses via VC, you really don’t need that large second monitor! Do you agree?

Application: Negative Affectivity

When I train my VC coordinators, I have them consider which teachers to start with first. Who is willing to try something new? Who is flexible and can handle some glitches?

I also have them think about who is more likely to be able to handle the VC on their own eventually; and which teachers need extra hand-holding to make sure it goes well. I realize again how important it is to make sure that teachers have a good first experience with VC. This is why I bend over backwards to make sure our VCs don’t get canceled or rescheduled. I keep several different ways to connect a videoconference, so if one way doesn’t work, I can try another. My three main ways are: connect directly if it doesn’t work on the bridge, connect on the bridge if it doesn’t work directly, connect through my Polycom VSX 7000 multipoint if it doesn’t work any other way.

Your Turn

  • What do you think of this study?
  • How do you use the picture-in-picture? Do you like having a second monitor or not?
  • How do you help your teachers have a good experience with VC?

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