Evaluation Q & A #4 with Wright & Wallis

Categories: Evaluation, Focus Series, Instruction, MentorSpace, Other, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles, Tools and Resources

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This month SAGE MethodSpace will focus on evaluation and other types of applied research. Posts in the series and relevant posts from the archives will be found using this link

Bernadette Wright and Steve Wallis, co-authors of the new book Practical Mapping for Applied Research and Program Evaluation. Mentors-in-residence for SAGE MentorSpace this month, they’ve agreed to answer some questions. This is the last of four Q & A posts.

How can mapping techniques be used online?

Online mapping is an emerging tool that holds significant promise for student learning, collaborative research, and program evaluations.

It is particularly useful for online classrooms, and organizations whose people are located in different cities. Researchers can also use online mapping for synthesizing their expert knowledge.

To prepare for a collaborative online mapping activity, ask each participant to spend some time in advance getting familiar with the platform. One way to do this is to ask each person to create a small map and share it with the larger group several days before the meeting.

We recommend that the online mapping process be facilitated by someone who has experience with face-to-face mapping, because the online environment can create difficulties. During the mapping session, to keep things running smoothly, the facilitator can “call on” each participant in turn to ask that person to describe the concepts and/or arrow they want to add to the map. The facilitator then makes the appropriate adjustments to the map, and checks back with the person to see if they “got it right” before polling the other participants to vote or gain consensus on the addition.

Some online mapping platforms allow all the participants to do their own mapping at the same time. That can be a tremendous benefit… or an invitation to chaos. So, again, we suggest that an experienced facilitator guide participants through the process.


What platforms do you suggest for collaborative mapping online?

Here is a list of some of our favorite platforms, along with some strengths and limitations:

  • Insight Maker is intuitive, and it can be used for modeling by advanced users, but the map surface is limited in size.
  • Stormboard requires that all users have an account, but is reasonably intuitive and has a feature that lets people vote on different concepts on the map.
  • Kumu has a wide array of features, although it can be more difficult to get the hang of it. Once you do, you can invite collaborators to edit the map.
  • Plectica is also intuitive with an array of features and you can “invite collaborators” who can also edit the map.

If you find a mapping platform that works for you but it does not have a sharing feature, you can use some online conferencing tools such as Bluejeans with a “screenshare” function so that the participants can see the facilitator’s screen as the map is made.


We thank you for your attention to this, and our other posts, and wish you the best in your efforts to advance the field of social research and program evaluation for the betterment of all.

For more easy tips and in-depth techniques, check out our book: Practical Mapping for Applied Research and Program Evaluation. It uses language that is “99% jargon free” to guide students and experts through every phase of the research/evaluation process, using the practical mapping technique. Use the code SAGE2019 for a discount.

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