In August / September 2016, PLUS carried out user studies in the User Experience Lab at the University of Salzburg. The studies took place in order to explore how the mutual agreement tool supports the initial phase (i.e., the negotiation of mutual agreements) in the collaborative relationship between mentor and mentee and what kind of user experience factors (e.g., social presence) influence the success of the negotiation process. A second goal was to identify usability problems and to develop suggestions for improvement.
Participants, who could imagine getting active as a mentor (providing support for others) and mentees were matched beforehand, according to the interests and expertise and were invited pairwise, however communicated over distance (positioned in two different rooms). Thereby, they could choose between different modes of communication, i.e., chat, video, and audio call. They were asked to negotiate at least three mutual agreements by using the mutual agreement tool.
Overall 16 participants (8 mentors and 8 mentees) took part in the lab studies, 10 were male and 6 were female. Participant´s age ranged from 25 to 75 years with an average age of the mentors of 50.8 and of the mentees of 34.9 years.
Results show that users consider the platform useful and easy to use. However, we could also identify potential for improvement, particularly with regard to the communication tools provided by the platform. Most of the participants used the chat to establish the first contact to their collaboration partner, however were not satisfied and subsequently switched to the video/audio call. Moreover, all pairs achieved common ground defining the mutual agreement over the course of their conversation, i.e., they discussed and settled at least 2-3 agreements. Hence, the mutual agreement tool proved useful and beneficial to start up a collaborative relationship between mentor and mentee.
As a next step, we will further explore the usefulness of the platform by means of a field trial via period of 10-12 weeks, starting in February 2017.