Our standpoint is that the existing CSCW research framework lacks the methods and tools necessary to simplify laboratory experimentation. Consequently, the project aims to accomplish two main goals: 1) Develop and validate a conceptual framework for conducting laboratory experiments with collaborative systems; and 2) Implement and validate a computational tool supporting these experiments.
The evaluation framework will be developed around five fundamental requirements: 1) Control the contextual conditions affecting collaboration. This requirement is at the core of any laboratory approach; 2) Mediate interaction, communication and collaboration. The evaluation concerns human-computer interaction, human-human communication, and individual and collaborative actions; 3) Specify the roles, tasks and actions that may be performed by the users and conduct the experiment according to the specification. Often, during the experiment, it is necessary to suspend the task to inquire the participants about the task, the collaboration, situation awareness and other dependent variables. Thus a specification of when the tasks should be suspended and what questions should be given to the users is also necessary; 4) One problem with any collaborative systems evaluation is that it requires a large number of users, and users tend to rapidly become a scarce resource. The evaluation tool may address this problem by simulating some of the group members, using predefined user protocols; 5) Obtain experimental data and preserve data in context for detailed analysis. The obtained experimental data concerns interaction, communication and collaboration, and may have to go down to the keystroke level when complex cognitive phenomena such as attention and awareness must be analyzed.