“Is this clear to everyone?” If you are organizing or teaching a workshop, this is a useful question to check whether the message has been received. Non-verbal responses are especially telling. When you nod in agreement, you continue, when you look glassy, you repeat the essence. There is one condition: you must be able to see everyone.
When we had to work abruptly via video services at the start of the corona crisis, this caused problems. At that time, Microsoft Teams displayed a maximum of 4 people at the same time, the rest of the participants were not visible. To appear you had to say something first. Competitor Zoom already showed 49 people at the same time.
Danielle Arets: “The design determines: whoever talks, activates himself. If you speak less easily, you will not be noticed.”
Despite this shortcoming, many Dutch government and educational institutions made Teams mandatory, due to security issues at Zoom. At the end of April 2020, Teams increased the number of visible screens from 4 to 9. Only in September 2020 was a 7×7 grid view added to Teams, so that 49 people could be shown in the picture at the same time.
Design expert Danielle Arets finds it remarkable that it had to take so long. “All teachers were obliged to work with Teams, because the program would have better privacy, but it had much fewer functionalities. While it is essential for good education that you see everyone.”
Introverted people got snowed in, Arets says. This did not only apply to students, but to everyone who had to work with Teams. “The design determines: whoever talks, activates himself. If you speak less easily, you will not be noticed. Teachers and team leaders had to work with a program that not everyone could visualize in an equal way.”
Can a different design help us? The video service Teams also realized that their design was inadequate in the first months of the corona pandemic. As an ‘intermediate solution’, they came up with the ‘handy’ in April 2020. With that symbol, participants can indicate that they want to be involved.
But did it work? “In a real conversation, you don’t raise your hand,” Arets says. “You often express your displeasure or doubts in other ways. For example, by frowning. Or with a nod of approval.” Teams could have added multiple symbols to the range, such as a ‘frown’ or the ‘fist on the table’.
What are the disadvantages? While you can mimic nonverbal cues with emojis, it never quite becomes the same as a “real conversation.” In a physical room, a frown or nod of agreement is subtle, and fairly anonymous. An emoji in Zoom attracts more attention. “The facilitator is more likely to feel called to respond explicitly to it,” says Arets. And not everyone is waiting for that.
We also need to understand that not everyone wants to be involved all the time. “Sometimes participants don’t feel like an active session at all. It is difficult to keep an eye on that in online meetings,” says Arets. Fortunately, a moderator can now see all participants at the same time. That offers new possibilities. You can agree on color codes to indicate your mood, Arets says. “If you have a red background, you say: I’m not having my day, just leave me alone.”
Source: Kennislink by www.nemokennislink.nl.
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