Collaboration in Virtual Worlds: The Role of the Facilitator

Benjamin G Wigert, Gert-Jan de Vreede, Imed Boughzala, Ikram Bououd

Abstract


Virtual worlds (VWs) are becoming a popular medium for meetings and collaborative problem solving efforts. However, complex VW communication tools and challenges in managing online social interactions are likely to complicate VW collaboration efforts. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to investigate the role of the facilitator when collaboration is conducted in a virtual environment. In order to conduct our study, we developed a questionnaire based on major issues in real world collaboration and interviewed 14 subject-matter experts. Participants were asked to identify what key differences facilitators perceive between virtual and real world collaboration. In response, participants provided many insights, such as the new interpersonal management challenges that arise from the absence of face-to-face communication. Participants also warned of the challenges associated with the introduction of more technology to the collaboration process. Further, they identified credibility and trust issues that arise due to facilitators’ avatar manipulation skills and avatar appearance. Suggestions for avoiding pitfalls and optimizing collaboration are provided.


Keywords


Virtual world; facilitation; facilitator; collaboration; decision making; leadership

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org