Teaching Qualitative Research Online: Using Technology to Leverage Student Engagement

By Kanzki-Veloso, Elda; Orellana, Anymir et al. | Distance Learning, April 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Teaching Qualitative Research Online: Using Technology to Leverage Student Engagement


Kanzki-Veloso, Elda, Orellana, Anymir, Reeves, Jennifer, Distance Learning


INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Research is essential for the growth of any professional field because it advances the theory and practice of the field. However, most students enter their graduate program with preconceived ideas and negative attitudes regarding research, perhaps due to the negative connotations associated with math and science in general (Lalayants, 2012). Consequently, teaching research can be challenging, as research instructors have to implement creative strategies to engage and motivate students (Koh & Zawi, 2014). In addition to being an expert in research as a subject matter, teaching research online also requires the instructor to effectively blend technology, instructional strategies, and content.

Although most strategies that can be implemented in a traditional face to face class can also be implemented online (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2013), "strategies will likely require creative and innovative approaches to engag[e] learners" (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2016, p. 186). Additionally, there are misconceptions about teaching research online (Budhai & Williams, 2016). Students may have some negative attitudes toward taking an online research class; they often assume that the content might be harder to grasp if they are not learning it face to face. Teaching research requires getting students to think critically, synthesize literature, evaluate ideas, identify and analyze issues, solve problems, and be organized. Thus, whether a course is face to face or online, the content will be challenging. On the other hand, integrating instructional strategies to engage students can increase learners' level of satisfaction and at the same time enable students to increase their research skills (Budhai & Williams, 2016).

Engagement strategies that are creative and fun can increase student motivation and enthusiasm toward online education (Marchand & Gutierrez, 2012). One effective engagement strategy can be to create online learning communities within the classroom. In addition, effective integration of technology might contribute to students increasing motivation and engagement; and consequently, mastering the learning outcomes (Chen, Lambert, & Guidry, 2010; Diemer, Fernandez, & Streepley, 2012; Nelson Laird & Kuh, 2005; Prince, 2004). Thus, the idea of piloting the concept of creating an online community and integrating innovative tools in a qualitative research course became the basis for the project.

This article describes how three faculty colleagues collaborated to effectively implement the concept of an online community and integrate innovative technologies for learning qualitative research concepts and skills in an online research course. The team members, and authors, were faculty colleagues that taught in the doctor of education online program. For the purpose of the narrative, the authors are referred to as the qualitative research subject matter expert and class instructor (SME), the research expert and technology innovator (TI), and the expert in instructional technology and distance education (ITDE).

In 2013, the TI and her colleagues developed a Technology Integration Learning Community, an online professional learning community focused on effective technology integration (see Reeves et al., 2015). The SME expressed to the TI the need to increase engagement and create positive attitudes toward research in the students taking her online qualitative research class, at the same time that they learned and improved their research skills. Using the framework of the Technology Integration Learning Community, the SME, TI, along with an ITDE expert developed the idea for this study. While the SME was responsible for developing the content and activities to achieve the learning outcomes, the TI assisted with implementing the learning community concept, as well as the techno- logical tools to support the activities. The ITDE expert was then called upon to assist in the planning for effective integration of technology for learning. …

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