Hi! We are Laurene Christensen and Vitaliy Shyyan from the National Center on Educational Outcomes. NCEO is a federally-funded technical assistance center that works primarily with state departments of education to help improve outcomes for students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities.
Our work often involves a national reach, including gathering information from a variety of stakeholders across the nation. That’s why we like to use online, asynchronous focus groups to gather information from stakeholders.
Hot Tip: Spread focus groups out over 3-4 days. By having a short time frame for the focus group, participants will keep the momentum going. It is important to recognize that participants will interact with the online focus group questions at the time of day that is easiest for them, so some will respond in the mornings and some will be more active with the questions in the evenings.
Hot Tip:Make sure your moderator is highly engaged. Encouraging comments and asking follow-up questions to the participants’ posts keeps everyone coming back! Participants want to know that their contributions are appreciated and an engaged moderator will know how to acknowledge them.
Hot Tip: Post only two or three questions per day. This number of questions will keep the posts manageable for participants. But, posting daily is important to keep them coming back and engaging with the focus group site. Bringing participants back to the site regularly adds to the quality of the focus group results.
Hot Tip: Encourage participation by having participants maintain anonymity and participate voluntarily. In our focus groups, we often use tree names for pseudonyms because most tree names are gender neutral. For example, in one focus group with participants from Arizona, pseudonyms included “Saguaro” and “Palo Verde.”
Lesson Learned: Online focus groups have an advantage in that at the end, you will have a transcript of the focus group without the need for a transcriber. For data processing, we use qualitative analysis software to code the content and identify emerging themes. Although preliminary findings come primarily from immediate responses to the topical questions, we found that instrumental information can also be generated through additional comments and follow-up questions from participants.
Have you used online, asynchronous focus groups in your work? Tell us more in the comments!
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