Here at MoodleNews, we’re data geeks. We love it when numbers get crunched by algorithms to help us do things better or understand things in groundbreaking new ways. But this is not to say we aren’t aware of the limitations of quantitative methods in making learning better.
Even though systems like Moodle can offer new sources of information about how students learn all over the world, it is not wise to assume those records tell us everything there is to know about students. Large amounts of data help us understand general trends, but they are not very good at letting us figure out how to deal with a particular situation. Students are a perfect example of that. Of course, following a small number of students and try to draw generalities about all of them is just as misguided. The hardest task of an educator is to stay doubly relevant: attending to both the world of scientific discoveries and to their direct student subjects.
For many reasons, the methods of qualitative research have remained relevant, even as new technology allows us to capture data more systematically. In a way, it makes sense. While data allows us to learn from the past to take better action next time, working with students does not lend itself to that privilege. We want to get to know each student better and learn how to help them individually as soon as possible. On the aggregate, classrooms, including those online, are rich environments where culture and behavior play out in ways a lot faster than we can keep track of.
In this three-part series, we hope to bring into light a few advantages of qualitative research in education within a user case project that highlights the tools that Moodle offers to apply the techniques to benefit your particular classroom.
Project One: The Qualitative Hobbyist
There are tons of resources online, but you cannot go wrong with the SAGE Little Blue Books of qualitative methods. If you visit the site, don’t leave before checking out the “Methods map,” which combines qualitative and quantitative approaches. The methods and focuses are varied. From audio documentaries, to gender and minority conscious approaches, and something called “Participatory Action Research,” the list goes on.
Depending on the method you choose, there is an ideal Moodle Activity to help you apply it. Here is a basic guide to get you started.
- “Life Story”: Chat Activity (Remember to enable the “Save past chat sessions”)
- “Writing Up”: Feedback Activity
- “Participatory Action Research”: Forum Activity
- “Discourse Analysis”: Glossary Activity
- “Exploratory Research”: (Open-ended) Survey Activity
- “Team Ethnography”: Wiki Activity
- “Recording Culture: Audio Documentary and the Ethnographic Experience” : PoodLL plugin family
- “Systematic Self-Observation”: Journal Plugin
- “Systematic Data Collection”: Database Activity
The Blue Books are concise but complete documents with theoretical groundings and practical considerations. If you follow them to the letter, who knows, you might end up gathering enough information worthy of an ethnographic article!
This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.