This week sessions focus on three defining characteristics of learner experience research below. It aims to help me to clarify the learner experience research that I would like to conduct.

  • Gaining sustained engagement with participants (using technologies)
  • Trustworthiness
  • Participatory approaches (check back the data correct)

How do we gain sustained engagement with participants? 

When advocating an upcoming research study, it would be helpful to present some previous research studies that the researcher or the research team has conducted to the learners. It provides an opportunity for the participants to see how they can engaged in the research, what would impact on their experience, and what consequences would have after the research.

Student representatives in schools and the Student Union connect to students directly. They play a key role in encouraging participation.

Students often connect to their tutors/instructors and schools closely. They see the information coming from staff in the school is more trustful. A learner experience research study could be designed through discussing with the staff first. Then through the school, researchers can recruit more participants.

In my previous experience, I found many of our research studies University wide are large-scale survey and run annually. Considering an investigation of the VLE users experience, I have suggested that we also provide a permanent feedback/comments area in our VLE homepage. So when users have a common about something related to VLE, they can just send it to us. They don’t need to wait for the annual survey to tell us their experience.

A research should use multiple methods that it’s good for participants to participate. For instance, using both email interview, online survey, and video diaries all together.

In addition, it’s common nowadays to provide incentives for participants. Personally I wonder if there is research about how much incentives can affect participation? In my team, budget is limited, it’s difficult for us to provide incentives.

How do we establish trustworthiness in the research?

Trustworthiness is one of the quality criteria for qualitative research whiles rigour is one of the quantitative research quality criteria. To minimise the risk of avoidable errors, I think the key is to be aware of issues in qualitative research and apply multiple strategies. Here are some:

  • Ask research questions are important. It should avoid the researcher’s perceptions and not lead participants’ answer.
  • Ask participants to check and confirm their data during data analysis.
  • Make the research transparent and use peer debriefing to get wider review and checking by peers in the area.
  • To not exclude some group of participants (e.g., disabled people, or part-time students, distance students.)

What is the nature of participatory approaches?

This is an arguable area as it’s related to personal information. I think all qualitative research has bias just like each researcher has unconscious bias. Watching the ESRC’s National Centre for Research Methods video podcasts, I noticed that being different from conventional approaches, it’s to empower participation and encourage participants to collaborate with the researcher, and learn from participants. The inclusive, equal partnership, and ethics preparation in participation are essential.

I learnt new research methods which are developed over the recent 10 years. It’s good to see some of the first studies of learners’ experiences of e-learning used innovative methods to uncover learners’ lived experiences such as email interviewing and audio logs. Meanwhile, it’s necessary to have a look at the self-study materials on planning and conducting online interviews, questionnaires and ethical issues. I particularly like this statement: “The role of learner experience methods is making visible experiences of all learners“. I realised that many of the online research methods have not included the participation that could have, for instance, people with disabilities due to accessibility issues. As I haven’t thought and checked the accessibility of the common online research methods used in my work, this can be a valuable area for me to investigate.

In this week, video diaries as a method of qualitative data gathering for research has called my interest. I wonder how much the students are willing to reflect on their own experience in a video and how truly they’s like to show their experience. I see the potential in this method to include people who rely on assistive technologies to participate in research. It can facilitate learners to reflect on what might help or not help in their experience. Meanwhile the researcher can learn from the participants by watching their video diaries.

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