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CUSeeMe User Questionnaire
The first study carried out in our series of investigations into the use of video conferencing was based around a questionnaire that was sent to members of the CUSeeMe e-mailing list. The purpose of this exercise was to gain an understanding of the way in which video conferencing packages such as CUSeeMe are currently being used in companies and Universities.
The complete questionnaire is given in Appendix 2. Questions were grouped into five main categories: 1) User Profile; 2) Usage Patterns; 3) Usability; 4) Network; and 5) General Comments.
Summary Of Responses
We had 50 responses and of those 44 were male. 34% of respondents were Researchers, 14% were students and 40% employees of companies. One was a Museum Curator. Nearly half of the respondents were from the United States and only three were from the UK. All but one respondent used the Internet and E-mail as a normal part of their day to day work. Most had heard about CUSeeMe from a colleague (30%) or in some way from the Internet (32%). 90% of respondents used CUSeeMe on the Apple Mac while two people used both Macs and PCs.
Usage patterns show three leaving the system on 24 hours a day. 19 respondents used it for about 1 hour a week. 15 respondents used the system between 1 and 2 hours a day. 12 respondents used it for between 2 and 6 hours a week. Well over half the respondents did work in collaborative work groups, but of those only two regularly used the system to have face-to-face meetings, however 16 occasionally do. 12 respondents used CUSeeMe in conjunction with a telephone link. 29 use it in conjunction with Maven software or built other network-based in audio links. Three had used CUSeeMe in conjunction with a shared drawing surface and some expressed the desire to do so.
The uses of the system are varied from a security system to keeping contact with distant friends and relatives. More common was the use of CUSeeMe in helping to link students with tutors, small group meetings between different sites. The informal uses such as keeping in contact was also very common mainly between dispersed colleagues, two respondents actually used it as a 'virtual corridor' with different colleagues. Some were evaluating the system as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.
Respondents were asked to rate how easy the system was to set up from Very Easy to Very Difficult , over 80% rated it Easy or Very Easy to set up (See Figure 4.1). Nearly 60% of respondents rated the system Good to use in overall terms, with 34% rating it Very Good (See Figure 4.2).
Figures 4.1. and 4.2. How easy was the system to set up? Overall how would you rate the system?
Usability problems can be summarised into three main areas of Sound, Hardware and Frame rates. There were a number of comments about the poor quality of sound provided by Maven [CUSeeMe s built in audio system]. Hardware problems ranged from digitiser incompatibility to some Macs not being able to run the system at all. The Frame rate was too slow for about 4 respondents. Various other comments were about bugs in the software causing the system to crash, as well as comments about the Internet not being able to support the frame rates and not being reliable enough!
Usability in Relation to Other Video Conferencing Systems
A total of 17 other video conferencing systems had been used by respondents and 13 of those were rated in the three areas of Refresh Rate, Quality of Image and Ease of Use. CUSeeMe gained good ratings for Ease of and was only surpassed by the NV system on UNIX system. CUSeeMe did less well on the other two factors especially the Refresh Rate and Quality of Image. The best system rated was Eclipse which had high ratings for Refresh Rate, Quality of Image and for Ease of Use. The next most mentioned system after CUSeeMe was NV and then PictureTel.
Most respondents (28) used a LAN with >64K Internet connection. 13 respondents used a High Speed Modem Internet Connection. The impact of CUSeeMe on the LAN differed between those who did not feel "it was an issue" and those who felt it did "put a strain on it". 6 respondents felt that as more people used the system that the impact would become significant on the LAN.
Using CUSeeMe was not seen to be a problem by 6 respondents in terms of affecting the Internet. Again fears were expressed that as more people use the system the impact on their Internet would increase.
Respondents were asked to leave any general comments about video conferencing and ways in which they use it. A selection of the responses are given below:
CU-SeeMe offers video conferencing on low-cost platform. It offers the possibility of ubiquitous use and resultant innovation among large communities of users who might not otherwise have access to this technology e.g. K-12 teachers/students in classrooms.
Internet conferencing systems with simple interfaces and inexpensive hw/sw is the answer to making conferencing an everyday part of life.
Room sized systems, ISDN requirements, dedicated links and dedicated TI service is not the answer.
All should incorporate audio and shared whiteboard interface within one s/w package.
Currently I'm just setting up a group of interested users on campus. I am also currently involved in a proposal for setting up a physician's WAN and see CU-SeeMe as a possible tool.
Mutual awareness - we run cu all the time in conjunction with two other labs and anyone else who joins the reflector.
Regular demos to visitors also watching project videos/remote lab demos networking experiments.
Definitely the way I like to work.
If the developers can continue to refine the interface so that it is easy to use (and I think they will), CUSeeMe has the potential to be a significant technical innovation. Something like CUSeeMe is likely to be the telephone of the next century.
Excellent use of the Internet; Additional work should be done to best enable this over the 14.4 or 28.8 kbps modem connections that a rapidly growing set of Internet users will be using.
I use it as a virtual office with several colleagues across the country who have jobs similar to mine.
Distant NYSERNet Executive Committee members will soon be connected so that, with the aid of a conference phone call, the need for costly face to face meetings off site will be largely avoided. Board members can meet without having to leave their offices.
NYSERNet would very much like to test CUSeeMe to deliver training and helpdesk services. A user could start up CUSeeMe and see if anyone was physically seated at the NYSERNet support desk. If so, the person could either send email or phone call the helpdesk person.
Possibly this could be made part of a MUD/MOO, adding a visual element to what has been textual so far. Imagine a virtual library MOO with the ability to see the librarian sitting at the reference desk.
It can be seen from the replies to the questionnaire that most people felt that CUSeeMe was a easy to use video conferencing tool. The uses to which it is put are varied ranging from surveillance, viewing lab demonstrations to electronic meetings and discussions and it is perhaps this which is the main finding from the study: there is more to video conferencing than simply attempting to replicate face-to-face meetings. Given a flexible video conferencing tool, even one that only offers a low frame rate and low resolution video image, people will find a wide variety of genuinely useful applications for it.
Virtual Environments Visualisation