Informed consent


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Gaining informed consent to use online data may involve communication by email or letter. This is an example of a briefing given to staff on a course, before consent was sought and data collected.

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  • This Powerpoint presentation is designed to tell you about a proposed study focusing on DZX222. Let me introduce myself…
  • I’m here today in my role as (virtual) academic assistant. That will be my role when you encounter me on FirstClass, in the help conference and elsewhere. Like the other academic assistants, I’m also a full-time PhD student at the Open University, researching online learning.
  • I am focusing on the interplay between the social, organisational and educational demands of an online course. This is obviously relevant to DZX222, where students have to build relationships with each other, negotiate workloads, sort out deadlines – lots of things that face-to-face students would do in ones or twos, perhaps over a coffee. Online, lots of these negotiations are played out in full view of the group, and they are archived. I want to find out how the social and organisational aspects impact on the learning.
  • DZX222 would be an ideal course to study. It is wholly online, the students are working on a real task, the pedagogy is good, and there is the possibility of making direct comparisons, both with the related face-to-face course, and with other presentations of the same course. Some of you may know of a study carried out in 2004 by Professor Karen Littleton and others, which involved archiving two of the project group conferences for analysis. I have used that data for my pilot study. The pilot study is not yet complete, but here are two examples of the sort of thing I am finding.
  • Here are three students introducing themselves in the group conference (I have changed all their names). See how Kelly changes very quickly from looking forward to the course to being daunted by it, presumably because she wants to agree with the others. From this evidence, it looks as though all the students are unsure and struggling. In fact, the course transcript shows that this was only true of one of them, the others are being self deprecating at this point. So this is misleading information, which may lead them to make the wrong decisions later as they work together.
  • These are two quotes from Dolly (not her real name), both of which appeared on the same day. In the morning, she is showing a deep approach to learning, she’s relating things to each other, coming at the problem from different angles, and contributing enthusiastically to the group. However, she doesn’t get the same sort of thing in response. Instead, the group starts to rely on her to do the work and starts asking her questions which suggest they are leaving it all up to her. By the evening, she is dispirited, and the quality of her input has noticeably deteriorated.
  • So, that is where I am now. I have some examples which show the social and the organisational aspects impacting on the learning, but obviously there is a lot more work to be done. I’m now discussing with the course team and the Student Research Project Panel the possibility of studying the 2006 cohort. My study would have two elements, archiving and interviews. Archiving would only be done with consent, and it would not affect students or staff in any way.
  • Email interviews would be valuable, because they would help me to triangulate my data, to check my interpretation is right and to uncover areas not represented in the literature. I would like to interview both students and staff but would not expect to carry out more than 20 interviews in all.
  • The proposed email interviews would involve 10 questions, most of them doubles like the examples here of questions for students. They can all be answered with a sentence or two, but there’s also the possibility of answering at length or adding attachments. I’m aware of time constraints on students and staff, and there would be no pressure on anyone to take part. When I have done this in the past, interviewees have found it valuable to reflect on the learning experience, so the benefit has not been completely one-sided. The questions are all available on a website, so people could see what they were committing to before agreeing. They could also drop out of the study at any time.
  • Three key questions that I might ask if I were a tutor on DZX222.
  • Information from this research would be fed back to the course team and to any interested participants. It has the potential to affect online learning worldwide. In the first instance, I hope it would benefit DZX222.
  • If you would like to know more, you can email me or visit my website.
  • Informed consent

    1. 1. Virtual learning communities in higher education Rebecca Ferguson, 7 October 2006
    2. 2. Rebecca Ferguson <ul><li>DZX222 Academic Assistant </li></ul><ul><li>Working alongside Ruslan and Naomi </li></ul><ul><li>Open University PhD student </li></ul><ul><li>Third-year research student </li></ul><ul><li>Working in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) </li></ul>
    3. 3. Research questions <ul><li>How virtual learning communities support distance learners in the co-construction of knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>What are the advantages of learning together? </li></ul><ul><li>How self-presentation, identity and community relations are implicated in learning online. </li></ul><ul><li>How do social demands impact on learning? </li></ul>
    4. 4. Why study DZX222? <ul><li>Virtual learning community with real task </li></ul><ul><li>Wholly online. Students need to work together. </li></ul><ul><li>Leading-edge course </li></ul><ul><li>As described by Kathy in her presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Continuing research </li></ul><ul><li>2004 study by Karen Littleton and others. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Pilot study <ul><li>Just thought I'd say hi to everyone. Looking forward to working with you all.... kelly </li></ul><ul><li>i am not quite sure what to do... as I have never worked on line ... i will do my best to keep up with you... Dolly </li></ul><ul><li>looking forward to working with you all, feeling a bit daunted by it all I have to say though ... judith :) </li></ul><ul><li>Have to say I am pretty daunted by this project myself. There seems to be so much we need to decide upon by Thursday that I don't know where to start... kelly </li></ul>
    6. 6. Pilot study <ul><li>Dolly, 11am the research on chunking can be related to a number of concepts eg Atkinson and Shriffrin short and long term memory, George Miller stm is limited to plus or minus two bits, also Klatzy talks about chunking elaborate rehearsal ... additionally Bousfield argues that people will remember more letters if ... </li></ul><ul><li>Dolly, 9.40pm A lot of the research can be found in GCSE and A level books. Also a friend suggested that you try one of the regular search engines. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Proposed method: archiving <ul><li>What would be archived? </li></ul><ul><li>All FirstClass content for some project groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Who says you can archive this? </li></ul><ul><li>Need consent of all participants. </li></ul><ul><li>When would you archive this? </li></ul><ul><li>Only when course is complete. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Proposed method: email interview <ul><li>Email interviews with some students and staff </li></ul><ul><li>While course is in progress. </li></ul><ul><li>Ten questions, flexible time scale. </li></ul><ul><li>Organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Only interview with informed consent. </li></ul><ul><li>Could withdraw from the interview at any time. </li></ul><ul><li>Would not archive interviewees’ conferences. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Sample questions <ul><li>Have you worked in groups before? Do you enjoy working in groups? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you let others in your group know about yourself? Do you think they understand how you are working and how you are feeling? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you feel about group work now? What would you do differently if you did group work again? </li></ul><ul><li>All questions available on website </li></ul>
    10. 10. Ethics <ul><li>Would you collect data as an academic assistant? </li></ul><ul><li>No, I will only collect your data with your permission. </li></ul><ul><li>Would this involve lots of extra work? </li></ul><ul><li>Most would be asked to read and respond to one email. </li></ul><ul><li>Others would be asked ten questions by email. </li></ul><ul><li>Would you be assessing me / the students? </li></ul><ul><li>No, I should only be looking at group interactions. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Benefits <ul><li>Improve experience of students and staff </li></ul><ul><li>Produce recommendations for the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity for reflection on practice/experience </li></ul><ul><li>In the past, students have found this valuable. </li></ul><ul><li>Feed back results </li></ul><ul><li>Contact me for more information. </li></ul>
    12. 12. <ul><li> </li></ul>