Tag Archives: cognitive load

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?