Qualitative research - the research made up by field notes, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and video recordings (amongst other things) carried out on location is a crucial research methodology. It’s the type that goes past structured, numerical data and helps to provide context to assumptions or observations.
Some research can only be done on-site and so, with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, this research method has been hard to implement. In fact, they’re more and more at risk.
Let’s explore the impact of COVID-19 on qualitative research in education.
- The State of Qualitative Research in Education
- Online Solutions for Qualitative Research
- Resources for Continued Qualitative Research
- Considering PEO for International Research
The State of Qualitative Research in Education
For researchers and university staff in general, qualitative research has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, there’s a whole host of concerns and restrictions that negatively impact research projects.
For researchers, concerns can range from:
Determining how to gain accurate information without being face-to-face.
Dealing with time constraints as participants can’t be interviewed en masse.
Carrying out research in an equitable manner, ensuring that any participants are kept safe throughout the process.
Both researchers and the participants are displaced, working from home, restricted by travel limitations set out by governments looking to halt the spread. Some are out of work or looking after children or other family members.
In this time, researchers have been forced to learn or even create a new set of skills that can aid them in designing and implementing valid and accurate research - usually online. What might these solutions look like?
Online Solutions for Qualitative Research
The main issue for qualitative research is how to generate data without physically being on-site, an obvious challenge brought about by COVID-19 and subsequent travel restrictions. There are some solutions, however, such as video-conferencing (for example, Skype or Zoom) or even text-based instant messaging (WhatsApp or Telegram). These can help ease the issues faced by interviews of focus groups.
These online solutions can help to collect data from large geographical areas, even outside of lockdown circumstances. Online surveys are also a good way of sourcing qualitative data, although the data generated tends to be less rich and in-depth than one-on-one interviews.
Unfortunately, many research sites worldwide are operated in places that may not have the infrastructure needed for long or consecutive online communications. There may be a lack of technology and poor WiFi connection, which can mean that a physical presence is invaluable to qualitative research in education.
Resources For Continued Qualitative Research During COVID-19
As we’ve said, qualitative research in general relies on face-to-face interaction, which isn’t currently possible. However, there’s a lot of help and other methods out there for research and education professionals to use. Here’s a number of resources that can help:
Collecting Qualitative Data: A practical guide to textual, media and virtual techniques: This book provides guidance on implementing off-site or virtual qualitative research.
The LSE Digital Ethnography Collective Reading List: A crowdsourced list of books and resources to learn more about multiple forms of research in the digital age.
Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic: A Google Document written to share research methods for realigning traditional fieldwork within the context of a global pandemic.
While data sampling isn’t necessarily best done on-site, as it includes documented data that already exists within the world, data generation (where new data is discovered) relies on that face-to-face interaction. This means it depends on travel restrictions being withdrawn and a global presence for a university or higher education institution.
It’s unclear whether travel restrictions will be eased anytime soon, so universities are now curious about how they can capitalize on overseas research while remaining in lockdown. One way of attempting that is through a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).
Considering PEO for International Research
Where the traditional university process of sending representatives and researchers to retrieve qualitative data from places further afield is no longer the most practical choice, PEOs can step in.
PEOs help by managing both recruitment and relocation and can act as an Employer of Record within a foreign territory. For example, imagine you have research to do halfway across the globe, but because of travel restrictions, you can’t get there.
The PEO will help you hire overseas talent to work on your behalf, managing everything from taxation, payroll, benefits and other legislation - all compliant with local labor laws. This means you can focus more time and potentially more budget on carrying out the research to your exact specifications.
In terms of research within higher education, this means universities can:
Avoid the time and financial costs of employee relocation.
Avoid the current issues of travel restrictions and still gain from a wider research team.
By employing local nationals, a university is more likely to save money within that hire, especially if the host country has a weaker currency. Universities can still benefit from face-to-face data generation, while also benefiting from the skills, knowledge and experience of local talent.
Working with a PEO is a fantastic way to save money for a university, while also maintaining the ability to create international networks and benefit from overseas talent. Research projects can continue as the right people are hired for the right positions - with no issues of travel restrictions.
You may be wondering how else a university can combat the financial and research issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s all about adapting to new ways of working and sourcing the help of professionals who can ease the strain of maintaining a world-class educational presence while facing these pressures. To discover more about how this is done, download our guide.
How Universities Can Overcome the Challenges of COVID-19
Universities and higher education institutions are suffering from a plethora of issues caused by COVID-19. They can be grouped into problems with funding and finance, travel restrictions and limitations to global research. However, there are some solutions to these problems that can be implemented.
To explore more information on these issues and how they can potentially be overcome, download our guide written specifically for the higher education sector. Click the banner below to get started.