An emerging trend in education research methods is to integrate digital technologies into the research process. Electronic focus groups represent one such innovation. Drawing on four examples of research and practice undertaken using a synchronous, digital system, this chapter reflects on how an innovative tool can assist in focus group research in the fields of school and higher education. The examples presented illustrate how some of the theoretical, practical and ethical problems that have arisen with traditional approaches to focus groups research can be overcome. It is anticipated that reflecting on such experiences and building upon the findings of these research projects will enable an understandings about the potential for innovative practices in education research that are possible with digital technologies.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Critical friends: Peers, colleagues or friends who challenge you by asking probing questions and offer helpful critiques and advice.
Education research: The conduct of planned, systematic, and creative acts to investigate and understand questions and problems concerning the education of individuals, communities and societies.
Web 2.0 Technologies: Refers to second generation web-based services which tend to have an emphasis on collaboration tools embedded into their interfaces.
E-Research: The use of digital tools, technologies and processes applied to the research activities.
Electronic focus groups: The ability of focus group participants to communicate electronically with digital technologies while also contributing to focus groups in face-to-face settings.
Emancipatory research: The processes of research which both in the data collection and in the analysis generate ways to change the social dynamics of given situations or circumstances
Informed Consent: The process by which a person voluntarily confirms in writing, his or her willingness to participate in a particular research activity.
Synchronous: Communications and associated processes occurring in real time and space.