Connected Courses is a collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web. Many of our participants are also researchers, and may look to the Connected Courses community as a source of research insight and material. These community guidelines for researchers are meant as a complement to our community guidelines to sketch out an approach to research on Connected Courses that is true to the values of the community above and beyond the technical requirements of institutional and ethics review boards that researchers are accountable to.
Online communication, such as tweets, blog posts, and comments are generally out in the open and technically “public” and available for researchers to analyze and quote. Internet researchers have, however, documented how a particular communication may be technically public but viewed by the individual who posted it as meant for a more limited or private context. Even if an individual feels that they have “published” in public or have consented to be part of research, they might still feel like trust has been violated if their words are taken up and reframed in a way that they feel is out of context or misrepresented.
In the context of an open online setting that advocates for shared purpose and community values, we believe it is incumbent on researchers to uphold community norms and expectations, even if it results in a higher burden of consent than might technically be required by most ethics review boards. In a climate where “big data” and “public online data” is increasingly easy to come by, it becomes even more imperative that researchers resist the temptation to conduct “drive-by” research that is disconnected from the goals and values of the community.
In order to model research that is community and context aware, researchers interested in studying Connected Courses are encouraged to participate actively in the community and share their plans and progress in the forum as part of the Connected Courses Research Working Group. Current research projects being considered are listed on the Connected Courses Research Working Group site. We expect any researcher conducting research on Connected Courses to make their best effort to contact course facilitators and disclose the nature of their research to the community through these and other channels. We strongly advocate for research that not only advances theory and knowledge, but also enriches the community being researched.
In addition, we put forward the following community guidelines for research, modeled on the approach taken by of the open course, Rhizo 14.
Public posts, comments, and artifacts shared on sites, apps and platforms such as Twitter, G+, blogs, Facebook, and Zeega
Researchers can analyze and publish data that is de-identified or aggregated in ways that cannot be traced back to an individual.
Any identifiable quotes or descriptions of activities should not be used in a research publication or presentation without the permission of the individual. This includes anonymized or pseudonymized quotes, because they can be linked back through a search engine to an individual public posting.
Interviews and Surveys
Participants in Connected Courses may also be contacted and recruited to participate in surveys and interviews for specific research studies. In these cases, it will be incumbent upon the researcher to offer a clear explanation of the consent and privacy procedures, how the data will be used, and what benefit the research will provide to the individual and the Connected Course community. The researcher should also consider offering interviewees the opportunity to review transcripts and quotes.
We strongly urge any researcher who is interested in surveying or contacting individuals for interviews to coordinate their efforts with the course facilitators and researchers in the community in order to align research goals with community needs, and to minimize the burdens on course participants to respond to research requests.
If you have any questions or concerns about research related to Connected Courses, please contact us at email@example.com