Assignment: Create a survey using Google Docs. The survey must include at least 12 questions, a variety of question types, and branching logic if appropriate. After receiving responses, summarize your findings, create charts representing the data, and write a reflection. (View original blog post here: http://darcyhutchings.com/google-docs-survey/)
In my library school graduate program, I experienced working in a group online for the first time. It was also the first online group work any of my teammates had done. Luckily we were all tech savvy and had experience with a number of tools that facilitated our collaboration. We used a team member’s workplace file-sharing tool (similar to Dropbox or Wiggio), Doodle to schedule real-time meetings across our time zones, our school’s multi-modal online classroom software to meet in real time (Wimba, similar to eLive), and sent scores of emails in Blackboard and through traditional email. I remember being impressed and feeling relieved at how smoothly it went. We were a very effective team and everyone held their own weight. I do not know how much of it had to do with the group collaborating exclusively online versus it being a graduate course as opposed to a prior education level. By the end of that graduate program, I felt as though I could collaborate effectively with someone anywhere in the world on virtually any kind of project.
As I was brainstorming ideas for a survey, the idea of exploring group work in online courses stood out. I’ve long been curious about how common it is to work on group projects in online courses and how people feel about them. I expanded on this to look at what types of tools people are using in their group work, what specific tools are most commonly used, which tools people find to be most effective, and whether instructors provide students with guidance on which tools to use. You may view (and take, if you wish) my survey here. Feel free to answer questions different ways to explore the different paths the survey takes according to responses on each page. However, kindly do not submit your results on the demographics page unless you have answered all prior questions honestly.
After carefully crafting my survey, I distributed it out to my various social networks. One unexpected lesson I learned via this assignment was the power of my social network. Though I have used it once or twice before to ask around for advice of my closest circle on various academic and professional topics, I had never put out such a clear call for involvement to everyone I’m linked to. I received what I feel is an incredible response: 96 responses in just over 24 hours via one call to action on each of my networks. My biggest regret with this survey was not including a question about where each respondent learned of my survey (i.e. which network and whether they learned of it directly from me or via a re-post). I would love to have that data to see the power of my network, mostly for curiosity’s sake but also to include in my final reflection on my PLN for this course.
Because of the way I solicited responses, I feel the demographics of my respondents is more a representation of my network rather than a representation of the general population. For example, I targeted areas of my network that are currently in or have completed graduate school (most probably are are were in one of my two graduate programs, both of which are online programs). I needed respondents to make it all the way through my survey, so I intentionally tried to get people who I know had participated in online courses. Most of the people from my first graduate program were non-traditional students returning to school for a second career. This explains the heavy weight of responses from individuals over 30 years old despite the fact that I am asking about experiences in online courses.
I have included demographics of all respondents here for your reference.
My survey results are rich with data that I could play with for days on end. I’d love to explore relationships between particular responses and demographics, such as, did a person’s feelings toward online group work seem related to one’s age or gender? And were students who had only taken graduate level courses more likely to have been assigned a group project than respondents who had taken only undergraduate online courses? Due to the time constraints of this assignment and the emphasis on learning the tools and process, I am focusing on more straight-forward results for the purposes of this blog entry. Though I will not discuss all of my results, you are welcome to explore the raw data yourself here. (If you use any of it for any purpose, please provide me with proper credit. Thanks!)
Of the 96 people who completed my survey prior to me working with the data, 84 had taken an online course of some kind. Of those, 57% had taken an online graduate course, 50% had taken an online undergraduate course, and 39% had taken a MOOC (massive open online course). Do note that some respondents had taken more than one type of course. I was pleased with the variety of course experience my respondents had. Entirely underrepresented in my data are learners who had taken any online course at the K-12 level.
One result of my survey that surprised me was the number of people in my sample who had participated in a collaborative or group project as part of an online course, over 60%. I had not expected it to be so high.
An answer of yes to the above question opened the door to the rest of my survey for 51 respondents. When asked what types of collaborative tools they used to complete their online group project(s), nearly all expressed that they had used an asynchronous discussion tool such as email or discussion board. The vast majority also used a document creation or editing tool (i.e. Google Docs), a real-time text discussion tool (i.e. chat or text messaging), and/or a file sharing tool (i.e. Dropbox or Google Drive).
Most surprising to me among the above results was the clear preference for the use of text over audio or video in real-time discussions and the number of people who managed to complete projects without using a file-sharing tool. I envision these latter learners emailing their document or product back and forth in a confusing sea of drafts, an experience I have had too many times in both school and work environments.
In my survey, I provided respondents with a lengthy list of specific online collaboration tools in an attempt to see which were widely used and preferred. Of note here was the clear emergence of four tools that stood head and shoulders above the rest: email, Google Docs, Blackboard, and Facebook, in that order.
I was quite surprised to see that email was the most widely used tool despite a proliferation of available tools. I did expect to see Blackboard at the top as it seems students would be likely to use the same tool that their online class is delivered in (and Blackboard seems to dominate the market).
I was also very surprised by the results I received regarding feelings toward group work in online and in-person classes. I thought people would have a clear preference for in-person group work, but as a whole, they showed no preference.
It was entertaining to read the comments left after this question as many individuals did in fact have strong opinions about one or the other, or about group work in general! I created a word cloud based on those responses (note that I removed words that appeared in nearly every response — group, online, project, people/person — as their size made it impossible to see other words).
I really enjoyed this assignment and learned so much about creating and implementing surveys and playing with the data. This assignment reaffirmed for me just how helpful surveys are for collecting information. I liked using Google forms to create the survey and found it to be largely intuitive and quick to learn. I especially liked the quick view of survey results using the “Summary of Responses” option in the survey edit screen which provides immediate results to see where further exploration into data was necessary. I look forward to working more with SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics to create complex survey so I can compare each product’s strengths and weaknesses. Another item to add to my “things to learn and do” list!
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