Active Online Learning in Research Methods

Categories: Instruction, Multimodal, Online Learning, Qualitative, Research Skills, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles, Teaching

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For August 2020 we will focus on Teaching and Learning Research. We will explore classroom instruction in research methods, as well as research foundations and experiences in other curricular courses. Find the unfolding series of original posts, interviews, and resources through this link.

The call for ‘social distancing’ in the wake of the coronavirus and its attendant COVID-19 disease has seen schools and universities around the world hurriedly attempting to turn their physical classrooms into virtual ones. It is tempting to look for solutions that resemble the brick-and-mortar classrooms. But just as a print brochure is different from a website, online teaching and learning are distinctly different from a classroom in a building. Like any kind of difference, some aspects are better and some worse.

Rather than focus on what is now out of our control, let’s look at the positive side for those who teach research methods and research-intensive courses. The online milieu offers lots of experiential options to practice research skills. Online research activities introduce productive ways to stay engaged with your students and keep them connected. 

While the resources you can find linked to this post are qualitative in nature, I believe they would be useful for any research student because they help to develop a mindset open to inquiry. They can build from that questioning stance to develop research designs using quantitative or mixed methods proposals.

I was an early adopter for online teaching and learning. My experience teaching, developing courses, and consulting about e-learning morphed into an interest in online research. Why, I asked, couldn’t we use the kinds of electronic communications tools used in e-learning to communicate and collect data with participants? Of course we can! 

A series of books are the result of these adventures in online methods (and I am working on a new edition of one of them right now!) These books cover both research design and practice in studies that use online interviews, focus groups, observations, creative and performative methods, as well as studies that rely on extant data.

book images

Two of these books, Doing Qualitative Research Online, and Cases in Online Interview Research, are available in their entirety through SAGE Research Methods. If your library has this resource, click on the Reading List and you can download chapters. (See access information at the end of this post.)

Learning activities you can adopt or adapt!

The learning activities suggested in the instructional materials associated with these books can bring a research methods class to life or be used for active learning in other areas of the curriculum. Students can interview each other, or outside experts. They can sharpen observation skills by watching online interactions or recorded events. They can find archives full of materials to analyze. Whether or not you are preparing students to collect qualitative data online, the exercises suggested for these books are interactive online learning experiences you can adapt for your courses.

Here are the ancillary sites for the three main books:

On each site, you will see both instructor and student resources; you will need to verify your status as an instructor with SAGE to access all the materials. You will find course outlines and complete syllabi with assignments, team and individual projects. You can access and use worksheets, podcasts and media, slides, handouts, and open-access articles. I’ve also uploaded the videos to YouTube with two playlists: 

Take advantage of these freely accessible materials to teach research, digital literacy, and critical thinking skills. You might even keep teaching this way after you are back in your face-to-face classroom!

Learn more about SRM: See A Primer on Getting the Most out of SAGE Research Methods. If your library doesn’t offer SRM, you would like to access the SAGE resources mentioned in this post, explore SAGE Research Methods with a free trial.

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