My small scale research aims to investigate the experiences of online learning for graduate students at NUGSE. I am interested namely in the experiences of students who learn online because being a mother of a little child myself and at the same time learn is rather challenging for me. Therefore I am eager to investigate how my peers combine distance learning and other components of life, probably family or work. The responds of the participants will illustrate how. For the purpose of the study the following research question is addressed: What are the experiences of online learning for graduate students at NUGSE? Qualitative case study research design has been selected to answer the research question and develop better understanding of the central phenomenon, i.e. online learning.
The first step before collecting the data is actually designing the questions that could help me answer the research question. Semi-structured interviews were considered suitable for this study as they allowed me to obtain in-depth qualitative data by probing and asking open-ended questions. Afterwards, as the potential participants of my mini-thesis are graduate students, I emailed my master peers by asking them to take part in my study. After getting few positive responses, I arranged the date and time of the meeting with each potential participant individually. At the beginning of the interview I described the purpose of my study, duration of the study and what is required from the participants. I also emphasized that participation was voluntary, that all interview data would be confidential. Each interview lasted for about 30-40 minutes and was audio-recorded.
According to Creswell (2014) there are following advantages of the interview instrument: participants can tell stories through their words, what is important for them and the interviewer can control the process and guide the participant. However, conducting interviews is time consuming in comparison with surveys or questionnaires. I personally think that quick surveys with closed questions do not allow obtaining in-depth qualitative data. Moreover, during the interviews the interviewer might ask follow-up question if necessary to clarify some moments.
The main difficulty I encountered in data collection process is finding the appropriate time and place for conducting interviews. Firstly, my master peers were overloaded by the assignments related to the elective courses and main thesis project. Secondly, it became even unrealistic to record the interviews in silence as I had to provide interviews in Atrium. Nonetheless, it was a great experience for me which, I am sure, will facilitate me in writing my main thesis.
Creswell, J. W. (2014). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.