Desktop VC Tasks

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

Reference Slovacek, C. L. (2003). Desktop video-conferencing tasks: The effects of telepresence and teledata on cognitive load, conversational repair, and satisfaction. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertation. (AAT 3113579)


This interesting little study examined what people pay attention to in a desktop point to point videoconference. They found that while people are more satisfied when they can see their partner, they focus most of their attention on the object, task, or document that they are working together on. They are also more focused on listening to the person at the other side. The author suggests that audio & data streams are more important than the video stream.


  • I certainly agree with audio being more important in a videoconference. You can live with a little video breakup, but if you can’t understand the other site, you may as well give up.
  • It’s interesting that in this case they found the data as critical as well. In this study the participants were working together on a document or task, so that certainly makes sense.
  • The author talks about cognitive load – especially increased when seeing yourself. Do you ever notice someone who’s distracted by the videoconference? That’s higher cognitive load. Those of us who are used to VC can handle quite a mess on the screen and keep going with our presentation. But not as easy for newbies. Too much cognitive load. Brain working too hard!
  • When the participants reported higher cognitive load, they were less satisfied. So what can we do to reduce the extra thinking that happens in early use of videoconferencing?

Your Turn: It seems again that turning off the picture and picture for students in a videoconference would help them focus more on the content. What do you think?

0 replies on “Desktop VC Tasks”

  1. So is this related to self-image as well? Just wondering.

    Two things happened this week that make me wonder. 1.) When our Baylor students met their classes yesterday, they commented that it was great to meet the students, but the teachers were not on camera so they still feel disconnected from them. 2.) Some of our internal staff, even though they have done many videoconferences, still exhibit a high level of stress and discomfort. One has requested for me to turn off the monitor showing local video so that she can focus on the content she is presenting better.

    It is good to be reminded of how people who don’t use videoconferencing as frequently as we do react to it. I always have a professional jacket, some powder and lipstick ready just in case I have to pop into a conference 🙂

    • I think it definitely could be. I remember feeling seriously insecure seeing myself on camera when I first started VC way back in 1999. I remember thinking, do I really look like that?! I think when the camera can be set and left, it is a good idea to turn off the PIP if possible just to reduce the distraction and direct attention to the far site.

  2. We moved from tiling the view of end sites to a voice activation of each endsite individually. This reduced the overload of stimulus on the screen to only one site at a time and also allowed the sites to have downtime (off screen) if they were on mute. Our students though can use this as a shield. I have heard one tell another “the mute button in your friend”, so needs closer facilitation strategies to include the quiet students.
    As far as discomfort about seeing yourself on screen – get over it. I have had very young students say about a VC they have been very engaged in “it’s like the TVs just disappear and that person is right there in the room with you”.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rachel! I think those tips do apply to room based VC too! What types of VCs are you doing in New Zealand? Do you work with K12 or higher ed? Would love to hear more….

  3. Hi Janine
    We work K12, a big focus is virtual classes in the senior secondary supported by VC, Moodle, Adobe Connect but also ‘digital conversations’ VC for all students – such as virtual fieldtrips, visiting experts, classroom connections. We also work with higher ed in tailoring learning pathways for our senior students in tertiary subjects. Find out more at or on my blog.

    • Sounds like you’re doing some cool things – I’ve added your blog to my reader. Let me know if you ever want to connect with MI. We’ve had classes come to school in the evening to connect to Australia and Taiwan before; time to connect to New Zealand too! 🙂

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