NVivo Blog

Webinar Recap: Teaching Qualitative Methods Online

Written by Stacy Penna, Ed. D.
April 15, 2020

During our webinar titled Teaching Qualitative Methods Online a panel of instructors discussed best practices on incorporating QDA software, like NVivo into an online qualitative methods course. The panel included Christina Silver, Ph.D., Founder of Qualitative Data Analysis Services Ltd and Research Fellow at the University of Surrey, Chareen Snelson, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Boise State University, Department of Educational Technology, and Sarah L Bulloch, PhD., Teaching Fellow, The CAQDAS Networking Project, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey. 

>> View Webinar: Teaching Qualitative Methods Online

Synchronous Online Teaching With NVivo

Dr. Silver started the discussion with principles she has used to move instruction from face-to-face to synchronous online teaching and learning of NVivo. Since there is no "one size fits all" strategy for teaching NVivo with online sessions, she highlighted key strategies and tactics.

Teaching NVivo online and synchronously can be complex. It requires a redesign of the face-to-face lessons to adapt them to online learning.  The instructor loses the face-to-face interaction during online learning sessions, even if the technology allows the instructor to see the learners.

There are two aspects that need redesigning, the teaching strategies and the learning strategies. The first step of the redesign is to review the full face-to-face program to decide what can be accomplished during the online session and what needs to be altered. The backwards redesign needs to focus on the learning objectives, which have several informing characteristics.

Ask these questions to frame the learning objectives:

  • Will there be the same number of learners in the online sessions as the face-to-face courses? ​Different size groups require different designs.

  • ​What is the homogeneity of the learners? It’s important to know if the learners are all at the same starting point, including their qualitative methods background, their familiarity of NVivo and their needs for the training. 

  • ​How much individual support will the learners need? It’s possible to see the learner’s use of  NVivo via screen sharing and this can be effective for some individuals, but difficult for others. The instructor will need to decide how feasible this will be and which learners will receive the extra support. 

It’s important to consider the length and pace of online learning sessions. The instructor will need more time to teach the same content that was meant for a face-to-face session. Not only will more time be needed to teach, but the learners need more time to internalize the content and practice using the software in isolation. The alternative is to reduce the learning objectives to align with the time allotted to online sessions.

To keep learners engaged, the instructor needs to mix it up, both with the content that is delivered and the pace of the mini-sessions. The content can be delivered in multiple ways, such as with short lectures with PPT slides. By supplying the slides before the lesson, learners can preview the content. Shorter demonstrations of different aspects of the software can be helpful for online sessions. Incorporating individual practice time and small group work can be effective if the platform you are using allows you to split groups into subgroups.

Consider how to deliver content using discussions and question and answer sessions, plus troubleshooting. Quizzes can be an effective way of delivering content online and checking the progress of the learners. To demonstrate a skill, you might want to create short videos. Pace is important for leaners to follow the screen share while trying to practice on their own computer. Design shorter, self-contained learning sessions with time for leaners to practice, especially if the learner only has the use of one computer screen. Clearer directions and focusing the sessions will improve the experience for the learners.

Here are some suggestions on how to split the sessions. First, the instructor could split the two whole-day sessions with a one-day break in between for learners to practice. Second, the instructor could split the two-day sessions into four half-day sessions over a week. The second option allows learners to internalize content and practice what they learned.

Here are some guidelines on how to structure and sequence of the content for split sessions:

  • Pre-session materials need to be more targeted for each session. It’s helpful to have short familiarization materials to review before the session, this can assist the instructor in finding the needs of the learners before the sessions start.

  • Between-session materials enable the consolidation of content that was completed through practice exercises and learner feedback for the instructor of the learners’ understanding of content and progress. This will help the instructor plan for the next session.

  • After-session materials can extend learning opportunities through questions and individual targeted support and for leaners to work together.

It’s important to make the resources accessible in a timely manner, such as on a shared drive. Shared virtual platforms like Google Classroom are a great way to keep materials.

Consider how you will evaluate the learners.It's important to gather feedback about the content and the learning experience. Think of ways to gather the feedback during and at the end of the sessions. Teaching NVivo online can be done and it can be done well.

Asynchronous Online Teaching With NVivo

Dr. Snelson spoke about some of the key advantages of asynchronous online learning. It accommodates learners’ schedules when they live all over the world to help with time zones. It’s flexible for leaners who are balancing job, family, school obligations. It provides learners’ time to think and reflect before responding.

Dr. Snelson has used NVivo for many years in her course, "Teaching Data Analysis Online," and incorporates NVivo and the Sample Data in the course. NVivo student licenses are available for both Windows and Mac systems. NVivo’s newest release makes using both operating systems in a class easier since the Windows and Mac interfaces are similar.

The NVivo sample projects come with various types of data, coding, query examples, maps, memos, annotations, and more.  This helps give the learners a common experience with same software and data.  It allows them to make comparisons by reviewing their work in the sample project versus what their peers have done in the sample project. The leaners can use the sample date for practice and their results can be compared and discussed.

Dr. Snelson game some of example lessons of how she incorporates NVivo in her qualitative research methods online course.

Example Project 1 Using Online Data
With the students, she uses the Instructional Design for Complex Learning model which includes four parts.

Part 1: Learning Task: Collect online data about Carteret County where the sample project originated.

Part 2: Supportive Information: Readings about research ethics when using online data.  Use this to structure the modules using an approach go through different parts of the software and data. For the online data project to find some online data about the county in the sample project. This provides the big picture data. We then discuss online research ethics in this module.

Part 3: Just in Time Information: Where the students watch custom tutorials of the software. Dr. Snelson creates her own tutorials with captions to make sure they align to what is being learned. These video tutorials are uploaded to YouTube as unlisted videos.  for NCapture and NVivo. Include links to online help documents. 

Part 4: Part-Task Practice: Sample and import online data into NVivo for analysis learning how to use the NCapture tool. This is a one-week modules. Looking at methods why and when would you use these tools.

Example Project 2 - Coding Interviews
Part 1: Learning Task: Practice first and second cycle coding of interview transcripts.
Part 2: Supportive Information: Readings about approaches for first and second cycle coding, based on Johnny Saldana’s work.
Part 3: Just in Time Information: Provide captioned video tutorials for coding in NVivo. Include links to online help documents. 
Part 4: Part-Task Practice: Import clean copies of interviews into new NVivo project. Practice coding and compare results in the sample project and peers online to see how people approach from different perspectives.

The final piece includes writing a research journal to reflective and report on the learners’ data analysis. The journal must include: an introduction, describe methods and process, screenshots of work, generate visual displays, findings from the analysis and a reflection on the readings. The research journals are shared through an online discussion forum, like Blackboard. This is a reflection piece, but also the assessment for the course.

Technical Considerations Teaching Online With NVivo

Dr. Bulloch focused her discussion on technical considerations when teaching online with NVivo.
There are three effective learning and teaching of Computer aided qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS).  These three strategies include specific tactics that can work for face to face or online instructions.
Strategy 1: Accurately disseminate knowledge
One tactic for accurately disseminating knowledge is to provide audio. It’s important that the instructor uses clear plain language. By reducing the use of jargon and not assuming preexisting knowledge of research methods, the learning environment will be more inclusive. The use of clear plain language helps to include learners who have a different first language from the instructor’s language.  The instructor needs to think about the hardware that will be needed for themselves and the learners. Using Headphones with microphones built in provides clear audio to leaners and the instructor’s background noise is limited.

Scheduling a 15-minute, pre-course meeting to test the audio can ensure the first session is successful. The pre-course meeting gives learners a chance to test their technology in the online setting. At this time, the instructor, can establish a tone for delivery to create a friendly and engaging learning space.

The second tactic includes providing visuals. The instructor can share their screens and disseminate slides in advance to give learners an opportunity to consider how they will take notes around the learning experience online. If learners have printer, they can write notes on the supplied handout, but if learners do not have a printer, they need to plan how they are going to take notes.

The instructor needs to think about how to provide the software visuals to the learners. There are two key items that can assist. The mouse pointer is doing most of the work during the session, so it needs to be large enough for the learners to see. If the font size of the interface of the software is too small, it needs to be adjusted. The learners should be able to see the instructor on the screen, but not become distracted by the instructor’s movements.

Strategy 2: Identify and address learners’ successes and difficulties during the learning journey

The first tactic is identifying the learner’s success and difficulties allowing learners to signal their difficulties by audio or text. It’s the learner choice to use audio, use pre-teaching meetings to practice muting and unmuting. Allow learners how they are experience the training textually with chat or text option.

During the pre-training, set some questions in the text communications to practice. This is a good opportunity to learn more about the learner. It’s important for the instructor to stop frequently in online settings. The instructor needs to get used to the silences, since it takes more time for leaners to communicate with the instructor due to typing or unmuting. Set the learners’ expectations around what is written and when questions will be answered.

The second tactic includes addressing the learner’s success and difficulties. When addressing the questions, the instructor should repeat the inquiries before answering. The instructor can check in with the learners by asking if the explanation is enough, ensuring that conversations with learners are not one way. Encourage a conversational flow and praise stamina, recognizing that it’s hard work to be a learner in an online environment.
Strategy 3: Engage learners in the learning journey

The first tactic involves fostering an informal learning experience, which should encourage integration. The second tactic encourages interaction. The instructor can infuse the sessions with informal interaction,  andencourage chitchat. One tip is to invite another instructor to be online to start the conversation.

Reference individuals in the course to personalize the learning experience. Another tactic involves encouraging the learners to show themselves on video to create a group sense.

The fourth tactic is to ensure the learners have access to all the software they need for the sessions, which could include video conferencing software and NVivo. Allow the learners to test the technology before the course. The instructor wants the learners engaged in learning, not the technology. It can be a struggle for learners to juggle the hands-on work in the software while watching the instructor.

Our experienced panel shared a multitude of tips for teaching qualitative methods online. Redesigning various aspects of the teaching and learning can result in engaging and effective online learning. 

You can continue the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NVivoChat

Stacy Penna, Ed.D

Stacy, the NVivo Community Director, has combined her educational and research experience with her work in the software industry and is delighted to be supporting and building a wider research community. Stacy earned a doctorate in education using NVivo for both her literature review and qualitative research. She has worked at QSR International for 10 years and is committed to progressing qualitative research.



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