Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN22 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 1063-1070
ISBN: 978-84-09-42484-9
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.0292
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
The objective of this paper is to transfer the experience acquired with the development of online Focus Group with students in the implementation of virtual Service Learning (vSL) projects at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED-Spain).

The main novelty of this communication consists in presenting the framework promoted by the Group Teaching Innovation (GID 2016/16) that integrates online Focus Group and Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) tools for the development and evaluation of vSL projects with Distance Higher Education students.

In this way, the advantages of Service-Learning as a collaborative and experiential learning methodology are complemented with the use of new technologies: on the one hand, for its virtual development and, on the other, for the use of online Focus Group with students. Thus, it is possible to obtain the inverse learning inputs necessary for the evaluation and improvement of educational innovation projects.

The practice of the Focus Group technique is a classic tool in social research. It is part of the research methods with the highest yield in the university context when it is important to capture the participants´ experience. As research methodologies cannot be left out of technological innovation, the main potential of the Focus Groups has been enriched with the possibilities offered by Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for their online development.

Despite having inconveniences and limitations of the interaction of the participants in virtual spaces, the main advantages of the technique applied to the context of the educational innovation projects developed are determined by the internalization of the digital environment that the students carry out in their dynamics of work, the representativeness of the collected samples, the speed in the transmission and treatment of the discursive empirical data, the absence of physical restrictions, the naturalness of the interactions and the exponential reduction in research costs.

The sample of the online Focus Groups carried out by the Innovation Teaching Group (GID 2016/16) is made up of eighty students in three educational innovation projects, carried out in successive academic years. The students were divided into ten discussion groups belonging to subjects of the Degrees in Social Work and Legal Sciences of the Public Administrations of the Faculty of Law and Masters of the same Faculty and of Political Sciences and Sociology of the UNED.

The results obtained from the online Focus Groups were analyzed, within the theoretical framework of the Grounded Theory, with the Nvivo software tool. They have generated a relevant corpus of discursive empirical material essential for teaching feedback on the students' experience. The main conclusions of this contribution suggest, on the one hand, that the projects carried out allow transferring the methodological framework of work to other contexts and projects and, on the other, that the development of online Focus Groups constitutes a social research tool of great versatility which allows carrying out a dynamic evaluation of the educational experiences of students in Distance Higher Education.
Online Focus Group, Virtual Service-Learning, Distance Higher Education, Innovation.