The final push is on to get my research proposal which is my final assignment for H809 in on Friday. But I’m looking for opinions on the ethics bit.
My proposal aims to see what can be learned from examining how students with dyslexia who have assistive technology engage with online learning material.
I’m not so much interested in accessibility as I am in looking closely at how the students work with their technology and whatever else is happening in their learning contexts. I think the findings could be extremely useful in feeding back to course designers and assessors. But I’m particularly interested in this data helping to create a community of practice involving faculty, disability services, computer services, learning technologists and of course the students themselves.
I propose to examine how they work in Moodle as that environment gives us access to all sorts of data from the logs (What did they do? How long did they spend? How much clicking around happened? etc). This is to be followed up with focus groups, semi-structured interviews and student audiologs/blogs/diaries/whatever.
My dilemma is should I tell the students from the outset, or should I let them be and inform them in retrospect? Or a combination?
If I tell them at the outset, I will comply comfortably with standard ethical considerations and we can make sure that they understand what we are trying to learn about them. BUT there is a risk that the students will become self-conscious and tell us what they think we want to hear.
If I tell them afterwards, they will have behaved as normal, but there are two drawbacks:
a) it’s ethically dubious, but not unknown to happen,
b) the students may not give me good quality data. I’m interested in all sorts of things that might be happening in the learning context whatever it may be – are they listening to house music? Are they chatting by IM with friends? Are they zipping back and forth between screens? Are they using traditional learning materials? Are they using mindmaps to represent their notes? All of these things may not be considered important by the learner and they may not record (or even remember) that they engaged with the online content in these rich ways.
Or should I let them do their thing unhindred for a while at the beginning and then midway invite them to actively join the study? So, we could monitor the logs for a few weeks and then identify certain individuals to keep learning logs?
I’m leaning towards option 1, but am interested in fresh perspectives!