[AG-TECH] Human factors and AG

Jay Beavers jbeavers at microsoft.com
Wed Aug 28 23:10:06 CDT 2002

I'd add two factors I'd love to see a study on:

 * Does high quality video conferencing have a significantly positive
impact on communication / collaboration effectiveness?  In a learning
environment, does it have an impact on learning outcomes?

 * If the video conferencing system displays the remote participants
life size, does that have a similar positive effect?


Answering these human factors questions is my primary motivation for
working on Access Grid environments for education.  There are a number
of "Virtual Classroom" software packages out there and a decent amount
of research on them and their effectiveness.  There's a smaller amount
of research on the effectiveness of adding or taking away video to them.

A summary of the conclusions of the research to date is that while high
quality audio conferencing has a significant impact upon improving
learning outcomes in distance environments, video has an impact ranging
from zero to negative.

My hypothesis is:

 * High quality video conferencing will tremendously improve the
effectiveness of communications and collaboration between distant

 * Research on video effectiveness to date has been strongly colored by
the "postage stamp" video implementations used.

If we create a video conferencing environment that:
  * Has a high enough quality to read body language and facial
  * Represents the remote participants in a "comfortable" fashion --
life size, with the context of 'belonging' to the same shared space

We will be able to show improved collaboration (and hopefully learning
outcomes) with the system.

We're not to the point yet that we can effectively perform the
experiment.  We tried with a 13 week semester course between University
of Washington and Microsoft Research last spring, but we were hampered
by bugs, hardware failures, and serious multicast reliability issues.
We intend to try again this fall and next spring.  We're looking for
other researchers interested in collecting data on this same subject
(having a background in physics, I'm aware that one dataset does not a
conclusion make).

If you're interested in our spring 2002 results, you can find the
summary document on our community site, http://www.ConferenceXP.Net
under Documents -> Presentations -> Lessons Learning with ConferenceXP,
Spring 2002.  I apologize for the lack of depth in the PPT, it is meant
to go along with a lively set of people on stage ;-)  We presented it at
the Microsoft Faculty Summit late this July.  We're working on creating
a technical report with the details, but we're not close to publication

If you're doing your research in an educational context, please send me
details so we might discuss in greater depth.

 - jcb

-----Original Message-----
From: Julia Shiela Mullen [mailto:jsm at WPI.EDU] 
Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2002 12:49 PM
To: ag-tech at mcs.anl.gov
Subject: [AG-TECH] Human factors and AG

Hi -

We have an undergraduate who is interested in
human factors and the Access Grid.  At WPI
we require each student to complete a major
project which relates technology and society.
(This project is a graduation requirement.)
The descriptions and content of such projects
is fairly flexible.  We are currently at the
beginning of her project experience so I am
turning to the AG community for suggestions.

What is the AG community most interested in
with regards to 'human factors and the AG'?
Is there a wish list of studies that folks
would like to see?   Are there project ideas
that we just didn't have the manpower for?

I welcome any and all suggestions - I will
present them to the student and we will
see what interests her.

Thanks for your help on this -


  Julia S. Mullen, Ph.D
  Academic Computing Application Scientist
  Computing and Communications Center
  Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  Worcester, MA
  phone: 508.831.6054
  fax:   508.831.5680
  email: jsm at wpi.edu

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