Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Paige E. Smith
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Industrial and Systems Engineering
Committee Chair: Dr. Brian M. Kleiner
Committee Members:Dr. Bevlee A. Watford
Dr. Robert C. Williges
Keywords:CSCW, Macroergonomics, Computer-Mediated Communication, Video Teleconferencing
Date of defense:February 17, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work immediately worldwide.


The goal of this research was to investigate communication media and feedback learning cues for tutoring. A macroergonomic perspective was used to identify three sociotechnical variables associated with tutoring assistance: problem analyzability, communication media, and learning feedback cues. A four-phase problem solving approach was used in all trials. The communication media consisted of collocated communication, email, a chatroom, and video teleconferencing. The learning feedback cue was a non-verbal mechanism for subjects to provide the tutor with immediate information about their understanding throughout the problem. Subjects participated in a total of eight trials over a four-week time period.

The analysis accuracy, process time, and user satisfaction indicated that the four-phase problem solving approach was not important in the interpretation of the results. In each problem-solving phase and for the overall tutoring process, technical performance (e.g., accuracy and speed of problem solving) and user satisfaction were measured to determine the most effective communication technology (or technologies) for tutoring students. The results of this study indicated that the accuracy was similar for all experimental conditions. However, the speed of problem solving was generally faster for audio-visual communication than text-based communication. In all phases, subjects were significantly more satisfied in conditions without feedback cues. And in general, satisfaction was higher in collocated communication and the chatroom compared to email; satisfaction was generally higher in collocated communication compared to video teleconferencing.

There was no evidence that computer-mediated communication improved the tutoring process. However, important design implications existed for tutoring systems with limited resources. Through computer-mediated communication, a single tutor could assist many students at one time. The chatroom appeared to be a condition that would be an effective communication medium for spatially dispersed tutoring. Although the tutoring process required significantly more time to complete using the chatroom compared to collocated communication, accuracy and satisfaction measures were similar between collocated communication and the chatroom.

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