Journal of Computing in Higher Education

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 344–357 | Cite as

Collaboration, multi-tasking and problem solving performance in shared virtual spaces



Collaborative problem-solving is often not a sequential process; instead, it can involve tasking switching or dual tasking (i.e., multitasking) activities in that the collaborators need to shift their attention between the targeted problems and the conversations they carry on with their collaborators. It is not known to what extent the multitasking activities increase or decrease collaborators’ problem-solving performance. This current paper examined collaborative problem solving in shared virtual spaces. The main question asked was: How do collaboration and performance differ between collaborative problem solvers in multitasking and single-tasking conditions over time? We hypothesized that (1) there is a relationship between multitasking, collaboration, and problem solving performance; and that (2) collaboration is positively related to the overall problem solving performance. A total of 104 university students (63 female and 41 male) participated in this experimental study. Participants were randomly assigned to four different experimental conditions: individual and multi-tasking, collaborative and multi-tasking, individual and single-tasking, and collaborative and single-tasking. Results showed that the participants who collaborated and had multi-tasking activities outperformed the others. Additionally, collaboration helped to improve overall problem solving performance over time. The study offers insights for collaborative learning from both theoretical and methodological perspectives.


Collaboration Multitasking Split screens Problem solving Shared space Virtual and online learning spaces 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.St. Edwards UniversityAustinUSA
  3. 3.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  4. 4.Deakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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