Lahman, Marie K.E.
Rue, Lisa A.
Hinerman, Krystal M.
Applied Statistics and Research Methods
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
The purpose of this study was twofold. First, to methodologically examine the use of three types of focus groups 1), traditional face-to face, 2), online video and audio, and 3) online text only. Second, to examine the impact of academic intervention attempts offered by university and department support services. Methodologically, the three types of focus groups were compared in terms of ease of use, comfort, richness of data and ethical considerations. Contextually, support services for a general chemistry course taken primarily by new students were examined using an evaluation method involving effort, monitoring, process, component and treatment specification types of implementation. For this research, fourteen students enrolled in the general chemistry course at Rocky Mountain University in fall term 2014 participated in one of the three types of focus groups to discuss support services for the course. Since the increase of technological advances in the late twentieth century, the use of electronic focus groups has been viewed as a viable alternative to traditional in-person meetings. However, different methods within a methodology might produce different results for both students and researchers. This study inspected differences in ease of use for participants and the researcher, comfort in terms of using technology and in discussing academic issues and support services, richness of the data, and ethical issues surrounding privacy and confidentiality. For this case study, methodological findings were that in-person groups still had relevance in this age of advanced technology. Audio-video groups were more limited than in-person groups in terms of interaction and administration, while text-only groups were easiest to transcribe, but seemed to be the most limited in terms of all other aspects of the research. Finally, ethical concerns were not considered important by members in any group; therefore, it is incumbent on the researcher to provide the best ethical environment possible in whatever form the focus group takes place. Suggestions for future research include recruiting participants from online classes and attempting to engage more disenfranchised students in other studies. Similar to new types of focus group methods due to technological advances, academic interventions for students facing failing grades are also increasing due to the internet and new methods of service delivery. The contextual aspect of this research involved asking students to participate in an initial focus group session, four weeks of email updates, and a final focus group session in which students participated in the same group as the initial session. The purpose of the focus groups was to evaluate whether or not the universities’attempts to help students succeed in a course known in the past for high failure rates through a program known as the Early Alert Project was succeeding. Interview data were analyzed using thematic coding to evaluate available support services using a comprehensive implementation evaluation model which included effort, monitoring, process, components; and treatment specification. The primary findings were although students believed the university was trying to help them succeed, Early Alert Project efforts were adversely received. In addition, participants felt that although there were enough support services to help them succeed in the course, the components of the support system were confusing and not organized in any systematic manner. Suggestions for further research included researching delivery of this type of communication that might be more amenable to the students who received it and applying this research to other courses to examine whether the same results occur. Finally, implications of the use of traditional methods and academic support services are discussed in addition to the effect of the research itself upon its participants.
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