Tag Archives: communication

Transactional Distance in Videoconferencing

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

Reference Chen, Y. J. (1997). The implications of Moore’s theory of transactional distance in a videoconferencing learning environment. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9802605)


This study compared Moore’s (1972) theory of transactional distance to the use of videoconferencing for teaching at a distance. The theory is that transactional distance (the distance of understanding and perceptions) has to be overcome by the teachers & learners for effective learning to occur. Moore suggested that lower structure and higher dialogue would yield less transactional distance.

Chen studied 121 participants in twelve videoconferencing classes in several subject areas. Results included that dialogue includes in class verbal communication, face to face interaction outside the class, and communication via email. The structure of the course included the design or organization of the class and also the delivery and implementation. Chen found that Moore’s theory isn’t specific enough in these areas of dialogue and structure.

The students perceived greater learning from greater frequency of in-class discussion. The greater the reported transactional distance between teacher and learners, the less the perceived learning.

Those were the only two factors that made a difference in perceived learning.

The study also found that out of class electronic communication was not supported as an effective practice; however, by the sounds of it, the use wasn’t required and therefore was low. If deliberate, interactive, engaging discussions were set up, would this result be different?

Suggested Strategies for Teaching Via VC

  • Additional training for teachers and students before courses occur
  • Planned class section where all sites meet in person at the beginning of the semester
  • Setting up a listserv for online communication
  • Creating group dynamics and a collaborative learning environment
  • Building consensus between/among sites through interaction among peers


  • It’s interesting how important the in-class discussion was in this study. How do YOU create discussion across sites? Good models are GNG‘s Pulse programs; some of the Jazz interactions; what else?
  • Don’t you think that many other Web 2.0 tools if chosen carefully and used deliberately could be more effective than a listserv? Of course this was published in 1997 which is seriously old in Internet time.
  • What other things do you see as important to a videoconferencing class?

Videoconferencing Implementation

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

Reference Baber, J. R. (1996). Re-visioning corporate communication: A case study of videoconferencing implementation. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9700122)


This study was more on the implementation of corporate communication via videoconferencing than on the actual communication. Still useful and interesting.

Baber (1996) offers the Culture-Process-Technology approach as a framework for the successful implementation of videoconferencing in the corporate environment. The framework recommends:

(1) that organizations should ensure that managers at all levels are willing to support the implementation process; (2) that videoconferencing “champions” be found to administer the system at the project level; (3) that operator training programs be developed to create a wide base of skilled end users; (4) that conference schedules be published regularly to inform end users of meeting times and to sustain ongoing interest in videoconferencing; and (5) that use of videoconferencing system features be consistently modeled to encourage the use of innovation and the re-invention of technology. (p. 128)


Do you have these principles in place in your school?

  1. Do you have a principal/ administrator supporting the implementation of videoconferencing in your school? What does that support look like?
  2. Do you have a champion for VC in your school? (probably you!)
  3. Are a lot of people getting skilled with using VC? Can your teachers mute & unmute? Can they use presets (if they are set for them ahead of time)? Can they dial if they are given the IP?
  4. How do you organize and publish schedules? Is your system working for you?
  5. Are interesting and innovative ways of using VC celebrated and communicated?

What else do you think is important for implementation?

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?

Videoconferencing Across Cultures

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

Article Reference Dustdar, S., & Hofstede, G. J. (1999). Videoconferencing across cultures – a conceptual framework for floor control issues. Journal of Information Technology, 14(2), 161-169. doi:10.1080/026839699344656


What are you things that you do in a face to face meeting that are hard to do in a videoconference multipoint videoconference meeting?

  • Stand up, pace or gesture menacingly if you want to impress authority on others
  • Fidget to signal that you want to talk
  • Hum or gesture to indicate support or criticism

Floor control is who gets to speak and what mechanisms are used to see who can speak in a meeting. These meeting norms may also be different based on cultures.

This article was considering desktop videoconferencing where people pay for the videoconference and want a quality meeting experience. Only one person can have the floor (permission to speak) in an electronic meeting.

Cultural differences noticed in this study are Hofstede’s 5 Dimensions: power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, competitiveness vs. cooperativeness, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term vs. short-term orientation.  (Take a moment to just read the quick wikipedia overview. It’s interesting!)

Differences in culture can affect what method of getting floor control is used. Maybe the person with high prestige is the person who says who gets to talk. Or everyone just jumps in and sometimes talks on top of each other. Floor control becomes more & more important the larger the meeting is. The differences in culture can lead to severe communication breakdowns that are magnified by the videoconference.

Other challenges in a videoconference meeting include:

  • Saying yes or hmm mm, or mm to let a listener know that you agree or are hearing. With all the sites muted, you can’t get this feedback.
  • You can’t turn to your neighbor for a side conversation. (This can make meetings get done faster! On the TWICE board which meets only twice a year face to face, many of us also use Skype, so we can Skype chat with each other if we have a side comment. )
  • There might be other people in the room listening to what you have to say that you can’t see. In my opinion, it’s really rude to be part of a meeting and let someone listen who isn’t part of the group. They should be shown on screen & introduced.

Suggestions for applying culture understanding to cross-cultural meetings:

  • Individuals from low power distance cultures should get used to waiting for a silence before they talk. Wait time!
  • With a variety of power distance cultures, one should make sure that all participants are invited to give their feedback.
  • Laying out the rules of the meeting up front will be helpful for everyone. Who will get to talk & when? If you want to talk, how do you get permission? Figure it out and tell everyone!
  • Make sure the participants know who is in the “meeting room” and something about them. It should not be “on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” People only feel comfortable when they know something about the other people in the meeting.
  • Plan to orchestrate the meeting more than a face to face meeting.
  • Be sure to stay within the stated time length of the meeting.

Suggestions for designing software include having all these capabilities:

  • A way to indicate you want to interrupt
  • A way to show people’s responsibilities
  • A way to grant floor privileges to others
  • A way to know more about the other participants
  • A way to have a side-chat
  • A formal protocol

In my opinion, without software, these can be designed by the meeting leader with a little thought and creativity.


  • This article had great tips for meetings, whether cross-cultural or not. If the meeting leader considered these ahead of time, it would make for a smoother videoconference meeting.
  • It would be so interesting in a high school international videoconference to discuss the five dimensions of culture and compare notes. This would help raise students’ awareness beyond “what do you eat” and “what music do you listen to” so that they have a deeper understanding of cultural differences.
  • Raising awareness of these issues before an international videoconference may make students and teachers alike more sensitive to the needs and perceptions of the other class.

Your Turn: What do you think? What tips do you want to apply in your next videoconference meeting? What about in your next international videoconference?

Visual Angle in Videoconferencing: The Issue of Trust

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

Article Reference Bekkering, T. J. E. (2004). Visual angle in videoconferencing: The issue of trust. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3120803)


The visual angle in this research is the distance between the camera and the monitor – which can make it look like the person you are talking with isn’t actually looking at you. Bekkering wanted to see if this angle is related to the trust between individuals to possibly explain why videoconferencing has not been adopted as widely as phone and email. The study was done with undergraduate students as the subjects.

The study found that:

  • Eye contact is only perceived when the conversation partner looks straight into the camera.
  • Horizontal loss of eye contact decreases perceived trustworthiness.
  • Vertical loss of eye contact decreases perceived trustworthiness.
  • Perceived trustworthiness in video conditions is higher than in text-only conditions. (p. 89)

Conclusions included:

  • Videoconferencing adds to the ability to trust by the “ability to clarify communication with gestures and visual information” (p. 91).
  • Manufacturers should try to reduce the distance between the lens of the camera and the screen of the unit, particularly for desktop videoconferencing.
  • If users are aware of this, they can either compensate by learning to ignore the fact that someone might not be looking directly at you. Or they can try to adjust the camera & screen to place them as close together as possible.

Application to Curriculum VC

  • So what should we do? I think that content providers in particular need to be aware of this and plan for it. I think of Kasey at Mote Marine Sea Trek who does an amazing job at looking directly at the camera! (and being high energy too!)
  • In classroom-to-classroom collaborations, do your best to try to have students look at the camera. My favorite tip is from a participant in my Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections online class who suggested putting a beanie baby on top of the camera. Tell the students: “Talk to the pig” (or whatever it is)!!

Your Turn

  • What do you think? What are your tips for making sure that you and your students look at the camera in a videoconference?

Please comment!