Adapting Qualitative Methods Courses For Online Learning

Categories: Instruction, Online Learning, Presentation, Visuals, and Creativity, Qualitative, Research, Research Methods, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles, Teaching, Tools and Resources

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This post originally appeared on SAGE’s Ocean Blog. It can be found here. It is part of a series about teaching and learning, and making the transition to teaching online.

Zoom call with coffee

There’s a lot of uncertainty about how higher education will be taught in the age of COVID-19. How should professors and instructors of qualitative methods courses re-think their curricula for online classrooms or cohorts? How can students conduct observations if they’re sheltered at home? How will students work in teams to analyze data if they’re distributed across the world? Here are some tips for alternative data collection methods, and collaborative tools for remote analysis.

OBSERVATIONAL DATA COLLECTION

Even when students can’t leave their homes, there are still creative ways to develop the observation skills they need. They can switch to collecting data online in a variety of ways. Make sure your students are still gathering the necessary approvals and permissions to collect online data and making sure the privacy and security of the data they collect is sound.

OBSERVE VIDEO CALLS

Students can listen in on video calls if the environment that they would have observed is now online. For example, a business meeting that used to be in person is now conducted over Zoom, have your students reach out to the meeting owner and see if they can call in as a passive bystander to conduct their observation. If the session is recorded, consider requesting access to view the recording.

OBSERVE ONLINE COMMUNITIES

There are plenty of online communities that are active and filled with social interactions worth observing. With the right permissions and consent in place, your students can observe Slack Communities, Reddit Threads and Facebook Groups. Within the posts and comments, there are a plethora of conversations to learn from. This is a chance for your students to observe a community in their online space.

COLLECT IN-CONTEXT DATA THROUGH A DIARY STUDY

Students can run online diary studies to gather data from participants in context of the activity they’re observing. Diary studies are a great way to see snapshots of participants’ lives that may be difficult to see when observing in-person. Students can do this by sending  participants text messages throughout the day, or by using diary study tools like DScout or Obvi to gather recordings that participants take of themselves.

CONDUCT INTERVIEWS OVER THE PHONE OR OVER VIDEO CALL

One of the simplest tried-and-true methods for doing in-depth interviews is conducting them over the phone or video call. Your students can use tools like Google Voice or Zoom to record the calls so they can get the recordings.

MANAGE AND ORGANIZE CALLS WITH ONLINE TOOLS

There’s a variety of online tools that make scheduling in-depth interviews seamless. Students can use tools like Calendly for scheduling, and then digital gift card options like Amazon to send incentives digitally.

USE ONLINE TRANSCRIPTION TOOLS TO TURN RECORDINGS INTO TRANSCRIPTS

Students can use online tools like oTranscribe to turn the recordings into text transcripts. oTranscribe has easy keyboard shortcuts that would allow your students to start and stop the recording, capture timestamps, or slow down the recording for easy transcribing. You can also have them check out this flow chart that shows various ways to get interviews transcribed.

USE AN ONLINE ANALYSIS TOOL THAT ALLOWS REMOTE COLLABORATION

Students can use online analysis tools like Delve so that they can code and analyze their data. Since its online they can easily analyze collaboratively even if they’re located in different places. You can also have students share their projects with you so you can see into their projects and offer feedback and critique. No need to share files back and forth and deal with Mac/PC compatibility issues.

Know that these online method skills will still be valuable post-pandemic. Even though using online methods may feel like a compromise for learning qualitative methods, these are skills that will be valuable for your students for whatever research they do after taking your course. Even before the pandemic, online research methods have been a valuable way to learn about our increasingly connected world. Best of luck in adapting your course!

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