Updated: Mar 31
Establishing a scientific collaboration with UCL
By November 2020 it was becoming clear from the strong positive reactions I was receiving from all the teams using the hand signals that I was 'on to something.' My approach was clearly addressing an underlying need at a time when Zoom fatigue was beginning to seriously infect video meetings.
The research project
I was hugely pleased and excited by the relative ease with which video meetings could be transformed using hand signals. I was developing my own theories as to why and what it was about the approach that made it so successful. I was becoming more and more interested in the brain science and psychology behind the technique, so I contacted UCL, one of the leading research organisations in this field. I struck lucky and talked with Professor Joe Devlin and Professor Daniel Richardson from UCL, Faculty of Brain Sciences.
The ideas I was proposing chimed with Daniel and Joe's own research interests and a project team was subsequently formed comprising of Professor Daniel C. Richardson, Miles Tufft, Mackenzie Clavin from UCL, and myself from Konektis. The UCL research team designed a randomised controlled experiment that enabled us to test the impact of VMS on factors such as group affiliation and communication dynamics. The study was conducted during February and March 2021 on 12 existing student seminar groups, and while the results are yet to be published the following summary has been posted on the Open Science Framework (OSF) website:
Summary of the results
'We found evidence from a randomised controlled trial that a simple set of techniques can improve the experience of online meetings. Video conferencing technology has practical benefits, but psychological costs. It has allowed industry, education and social interactions to continue in some form during the Covid-19 lockdowns. But it has left many users feeling fatigued and socially isolated, perhaps because the limitations of video conferencing disrupts users ability to coordinate interactions and foster social affiliation. Video Meeting Signals (VMS) is a simple technique that uses gestures to overcome some of these limitations. We carried out a randomised controlled trial in which half of the 100 undergraduate students underwent a short training session in VMS. All participants rated their subjective experience of two weekly seminars, and transcripts were objectively coded for the valence of language used. Compared to controls, seminar groups with VMS training rated their personal experience, their feelings toward their group, and their perceived learning outcomes as significantly higher. Also, they were more likely to use positive language and less likely to use negative language. While future, pre-registered experiments will explore which aspects of the technique are responsible for these benefits, the current results establish that VMS has great potential to overcome the psychological problems of group video meetings.'
The full paper will be made available here once published.
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