Learning Circles | Big Data | Mobile Technologies | Open Education | Creativity

Learning Circles: My most recent research project investigates Learning Circles (free face-to-face study groups for people who want to take MOOCs, massive open online courses, together). Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) created this pioneering model in which a volunteer, non-content expert facilitates conversations among students in the Learning Circles. I collaborated with P2PU and their partners during my fieldwork. I shared my interview protocols, helped to design a learners’ survey, and wrote two data-driven reports with preliminary findings of my ethnographic work. These results helped P2PU to create promotional and pedagogical materials for the Learning Circles.

Big Data: In 2014 and 2015, I partnered with a researcher from SAS (a data analytics company) in a project that combined qualitative methods and big data analysis to investigate communicative actions and message content on the online discussions forums of Peer 2 Peer University. I conducted a qualitative and thematic analysis that described users’ actions. My colleague used SAS software to map conversation topics in our data. We crossed our results and were able to tell which topics generated each type of actions (e.g.: debating, sharing, producing).

On an experimental stage of our project, we used our coded data to teach the computer my qualitative coding scheme. Our model presented promising results. We still need to make adjustments to it that will involve manually coding line by line a larger data set to feed the computer. Our presentations at national and international conferences emphasized possibilities to use big data in non-traditional ways. Our rationale was to explore the strengths of machines while also giving more control to researchers over the analysis process.

Mobile Technologies: Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva leads a project that investigates the uses of mobile technologies in Brazil in several contexts – among underprivileged populations, middle-class users, artists, etc. My main contributions relate to research design and data analysis.

Open Education: Cathy Davidson’s graduate seminar on Web Literacies, Digital Knowledge, and Digital Humanities (ISIS 890S) resulted in a book called Field Notes for the 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Graduate students from Duke University, NC State University, and UNC-Chapel Hill engaged in a semester-long exploration of topics such as video games for learning, digital divide, digital presence, etc.

Creativity: Deanna Dannels’ graduate seminar on Technologies and Pedagogies in the Communication Arts (CRD 704) resulted in semester-long a qualitative research project. My colleagues and I investigated how NC State first-year undergraduate students understand and express their creativity. Our investigation involved in-depth interviews and a preliminary analysis of our data.