Ethics & Interview Platforms

Categories: Data Collection, Online Research, Other, Research Ethics

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In the first quarter of 2021 we explored design steps, starting with a January focus on research questions. We continued to learn about the design stage in February by focusing on Choosing Methodology and MethodsThe focus for March is on Designing an Ethical Study.


What platforms are best for collecting interview data?

A question was posed at the Research Ethics in Practice seminar about protection of data collected in online interviews or focus groups conducted on videoconference platforms. We need to be able to assure ethics reviewers and participants that we can protect the data we collect. How can we make that promise, when using commercial platforms?

It is important choose a platform that allows you to record to your own hard drive, rather than the cloud, or to download the recording to your hard drive and delete it from the server.

Doing Qual Research Online

If you’ve read my books, you know that I prefer to discuss features rather than tech brands. (Find out how to access my books through the SAGE Research Methods database in this post.) For one thing, they don’t pay me to advertise and they seem to be making plenty of money without my help. For another, brands frequently change features, and the same brands might not be available in all parts of the world. However, for this post, I will name names! The features discussed here are not limited to these platforms. If you have access to a different platform, look closely at the privacy information or contact tech support to get answers about recording options. See How to Lead a Videoconference for more about using this type of communication tool.

A Platform that Allows You To Record to Your Hard Drive

Zoom allows you to choose whether to record to your computer or to the cloud. Zoom tech support assured me that when you make that choice, no records are saved to the cloud. I inadvertently tested this theory when I had an outage in the middle of recording to my hard drive. Yes, it was gone and there was no way to retrieve it from the server. Recording how-to is here.

You can also record to the cloud, and set a password to add security to your files. You can record to the cloud, transcribe or download, then permanently delete the files. Information about these options can be found here.

In Zoom you can choose automatic transcriptions for the audio of a meeting or webinar that you record to the cloud, which is very useful for research purposes.

Web Ex allows you to record directly to your computer, or record to the cloud then download and delete it from the server. Recording how-to is here. The Web Ex paid plan also allows you to choose automatic transcriptions for recordings.

Both of these platforms offer more limited free services, or paid services that you can contract on a monthly basis. If you are conducting interviews over a time-limited basis, paying for a month or two might be worthwhile in order to access more features. For example, a feature like automatic transcription might make a paid plan a worthwhile investment. Be sure to check for student or educator discounts.

Platforms that Allow You to Delete Records from Company Servers

Commercial platforms such as Adobe Connect record to their servers, but allow you to download the recording and delete it from the server. Find recording information here.

In a previous faculty position I had Adobe Connect access, and tested the delete feature. Indeed, the recordings were gone from their lists once I deleted them. Adobe Connect is enterprise-level, with no option for a free or individual plan. However, many educational institutions have a contract, so you might find that you can get access through your university.

I recently discovered a platform that allows for more than videoconferencing. You could post materials for focus group members to review and discuss, have extended interactions in a longitudinal study, and have asynchronous forums with participants in Mighty Networks. It allows you to choose the Mighty Networks meeting tools, or to embed Zoom meetings within your Mighty Networks set-up. The meeting features are only available in the paid plans. According to their tech support, once you delete any recordings there are no persistent records. Find meeting information here.

Platforms that Only Record to the Cloud

All of the Microsoft products, including Teams and Skype, record to the cloud. From the information I have, it appears that Skype and Teams users cannot opt to record directly to their hard drives. Once recorded, you can delete the files from the cloud. Skype is offered in a free or business version. Teams and business Skype are part of Office 365, so purchasing them might involve a long-term contract. Additional limitations in Teams:

  • Whiteboards and shared notes are not currently captured in meeting recordings.
  • When you view a meeting recording, you’ll see no more than four peoples’ video streams at once.

See Skype info here, and Teams info here.

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