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Exploring online research methods - Incorporating TRI-ORM

Online course: Overview

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Open/close headingIntroduction

Through the TRI-ORM project, a ten week, 15 credit, M-level online training course was designed as a professional development opportunity for researchers wishing to develop their practice and to undertake high quality online research.

The courses ran from January-April in 2008 and 2009.

This page contains information relating to the online course, including the programme, assessment and activities.


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Open/close headingCourse outline

The course covered a range of methodological and practical issues around online research. A weekly structure was used whereby there was a regular hour-long synchronous session, along with asynchronous tasks to be carried out each week before and after this session. The assessment consisted of a research design proposal and a reflective blog.

The weekly outline was as follows:

Week 1: Getting started and thinking about our online personas.
Week 2: Discussion about online persona, who are you online and what impact does this have on your research?
Week 3: Evaluating when online research methods are appropriate? What methods do you use?
Week 4: Asynchronous methods: surveys, questionnaires, interviews.
Week 5: Synchronous methods: focus groups and interviews.
Week 6: Experiments and ethnographies.
Week 7: Starting to plan your own project and investigate ethical issues.
Week 8: Developing and piloting your project. Submission of Assessment 1: Research Design Proposal
Week 9: Piloting your own and others projects.
Week 10: Reflection on your professional development
Week 11: Completion/submission of Assessment 2: Reflective Blog

Further details on the weekly programme can be viewed on the 'Programme' page.


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Open/close headingLearning outcomes

The course aimed to ensure that by the end of the module participants would be able to:

  • evaluate when online research methods are appropriate for social science research;
  • discuss the key ethical and methodological issues surrounding the use of online research methods;
  • critically evaluate the use of online research methods to address their own and their peers’ research questions;
  • design and pilot an online questionnaire or online interview to address their own research questions using appropriate software/hardware;
  • evaluate their online research design in the light of feedback from the pilot;
  • identify the key issues in successful implementation of online research methods from the perspective of researcher and respondent; and
  • reflect on their experience as an online researcher and identify further opportunities for development.


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Open/close headingCourse philosophy

The methods employed within the course reflected a commitment to online learning and drew on established online pedagogies. It was built on a belief that it online learning is particularly appropriate for teaching online methods.

During the course there was ongoing consideration of what is unique about the online world as an environment for research, and employing online environments as a venue for these discussions was intended to help inform this process. Within the interactive task framework of the course, participants were introduced to a wide range of online tools and technologies including:

  • Real-time meeting applications
  • Discussion boards
  • Blogs
  • Wikis


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Open/close headingReflective blogging

A key component of the online module in 2009 was the use of reflective blogs to provide a forum for participants to record their progress and reflect on their development as online researchers. The blogs also made up 50% of the assessment for the course.


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Open/close headingFrequently Asked Questions

Archived FAQs from the 2008 and 2009 courses are shown below:

How much time will it take?

You are expected to devote at least two hours a week to online interaction with course tutors and participants. This will take the form of one hour of synchronous activity. The other hour will be asynchronous and can therefore be spread across the week according to your schedule.

In addition to the contact time (around twenty hours) you are expected to undertake some reading, engage with online lectures and learning materials, take part in other participants research pilots and work on your own project. In total we would estimate that the course will require around a hundred hours spread over the entire period of the course.

What will I be required to do?

The course requires you to take part in interactive activities and discussion. Some activities will by synchronous while others you can do at your own speed and in your own time. You will also need to undertake some reading, engage with online lectures and learning materials, take part in other participants research pilots and work on your own project.

What technology do I need?

You will require a PC with internet access in order to participate in the course. Synchronous meetings and activities will be undertaken using the University of Leicester's Adobe Connect software which requires no installation on your local PC. However, some people have experienced problems accessing the meeting space because of restrictions on their local network. This can be easily remedied by your local network administrator who needs to ensure port 1915 is opened.

Am I eligible?

This is a postgraduate level course aimed at active researchers wishing to develop their professional practice in the area of online research methods. Applicants should have a first degree in relevant subject or relevant professional experience.

How will the course be assessed?

There are two assessed elements for the module.

Reflective portfolio/blog (2000 words)
Research design report (2000 words)
Completion of these two pieces of work is required in order to gain the credits for the module.

Is the course formally accredited?

Yes, the course is a 15 credit M level module and will be accredited by the University of Leicester.


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Open/close headingEvaluation


The workshops were evaluated by the project evaluation consultant Julia Meek, using a combination of online questionnaire and reflective blog postings. The evaluation report is available on the TRI-ORM project 'Evaluation' page.  


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Authors of this page: Jane Wellens and Tristram Hooley - Year of publication: 2009
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