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Evidence from a series of experiments on video-mediated collaboration: does eye contact matter?

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
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  • Communication
  • Education


We report a series of studies on the role of eye contact in video-mediated communication. These are part of an ongoing research program, which is investigating the usefulness of the technological mediated collaborative problem solving for distance learning. Technological mediation consists of access to shared simulations and access to a variety of means of communication. The means of communication we have explored range from audio only contact to video mediated communication with or without eye contact. The motivating question behind this research program is ‘what is different when members of a problem-solving group are physically separated but technologically connected?’ The studies are set in the context of pairs of adults working with shared simulations of either physics or statistical experiments. The first set of studies investigated pairs working on a shared simulation of a physics experiment developed in SharedARK. The study compared remote technological mediated communication with communication that occurred during physical co-presence. There were no differences in performance, but the addition of computer mediated communication did influence the pattern of interaction. These experiments suggested that eye contact influenced problem solving. The second set of studies compared pairs and groups of threes and fours using a simulation of a statistic experiment developed in a system called Kansas. In these studies we compared learners with either video-mediated communication or audio only communication. The addition of the visual communication channel altered the pattern of interaction. The most recent study presents evidence that suggests eye contact facilitated conceptual understanding.

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