CEC Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Yair Levy

Committee Member

Eric S Ackerman

Committee Member

Peixiang Liu

Abstract

The modern workplace environment is filled with interruptions due to the necessity of coworkers to communicate with each other. Studies have revealed that interruptions can disrupt the ability of a knowledge worker to concentrate on a task, which can impact task performance (TP). Communication interruptions are due, in part, to the unavoidable side-effect of using technology to facilitate these interactions. Human-computer-interaction (HCI) involving instant messaging (IM) communication tools can cause interruptions to occur as coworkers use this technology to communicate on various work related activities. The main goal of this research was to empirically investigate the role of instant messaging interruptions (IMI) on knowledge workers' TP in the workplace.

This research used a field experiment to investigate the role of IMI on knowledge worker TP during e-learning-based training. With the pervasive use of computers in the workplace, e-learning training has become an efficient and effective way to deliver training to knowledge workers. The experiment utilized a posttest-only control group design using two experimental groups and one control group. Each group consisted of four e-learning training tasks of varying task complexity (TC). These included simple and complex tasks involving symbolic and spatial manipulation. While working on the e-learning training tasks, the participants in the experimental groups were interrupted by randomly generated IMI. One experimental group experienced a low number of IMI (LIMI) and one experienced a high number of IMI (HIMI). The control group experienced no IMI (NIMI).

The volunteer participants were selected at-random from the online administrative department of a local technical college. A total of 60 experiments were conducted and multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) of the 120 usable records revealed that the time to complete a task (TPtct), for simple and complex, as well as symbolic and spatial tasks were affected by increased IMI. Results for changes to task accuracy (TPacc) were not statistically significant.

Implications of this study for research were the identification of gaps in previous research concerning environment of the experiments and the type of interrupting medium that was used. Previous research has been primarily conducted in a laboratory environment with interruptions generated by means other than IM. This research used IM as the interrupting medium with participants working in their normal workplace environment. Implications for practitioners were the additional time required to complete a task when interrupted by IMI and the way in which workers seem to compensate for the distraction.

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