• The diary-interview approach: exploring student experiences of e-learning

    Helen Lyons and Louise Thorpe
    Sheffield Hallam University

    Research seminar

    Themes: the student experience and learning.

    Monday 1 September 2008, 15.45-16.45 in Teasdale

    This session will present the methods used to explore student experiences of e-learning. With the rapid growth in technology and its expanding use within an educational context, more research into the student experience of e-learning is necessary. Studies from Creanor et al (2006) and Gilbert et al (2007) have provided early insights, yet each identify a need for further investigation.

    Consistent with previous research conducted at Sheffield Hallam University, this study was designed to consider the holistic student experience whilst placing an emphasis on engagement with the virtual learning environment and other technologies used to support their learning. The research aimed to explore how and where students are engaging with learning through the use of technology, and to determine student preferences for use of technology or other learning materials.

    This research employed the diary-interview approach (Zimmerman and Wieder, 1977). Participants were asked to keep a diary for a two-week period and were contacted via text message intermittently with a question to form the focus for their diary entry for the day. They were also required to keep a log of learning activities that they had engaged with on that particular day. By allowing students to keep their diary using different forms of media, it was anticipated that vast amounts of rich data would be collected, and that the different forms of record and feedback would provide an insight into preferences for learning. This diary phase was followed by an interview, in which participants elaborated on issues raised within their diaries.

    The use of diaries as a tool for educational research is reported in a variety of contexts (Tang, 2002) including studies into learning technologies (Johnson, 2001; Aspden and Helm, 2004). This session will explore the use of the diary-interview approach and the use of text message prompts to elicit qualitative data from students on the use of technology within their learning.