Education Technology

Conducting Effective Qualitative Research Interviews

By Erika Ryuken
November 08, 2021

Qualitative research interviews are in-depth interviews that elicit detailed feedback from your customers and leads. Unstructured interviews often reveal why people make certain decisions or react in a particular way. Qualitative research is especially helpful for understanding why a piece of educational technology works for some disciplines but not for others.

If researchers want to identify their customer’s needs, they must clarify their market message and generate ideas for their educational technology brand and its products.

Step 1: Improving with Technology

Before starting the interviewing process, we recommend researchers improve their skills by using learning platforms and training apps. For example, Skillshare has a beginner-level course that helps human resource professionals hone their recruitment and interviewing skills.

Although a qualitative research interview is more in-depth than a professional job interview, it’s still essential to get the basics down before graduating to an expert-level course.

Other courses around the web include Udemy’s “Planning and Conducting Qualitative Interviews” 4-hour course. To learn how to conduct qualitative data analysis along with interviewing, there are the “From Zero to NVivo 12,” and “How to Analyze Qualitative Data” courses, both created by Dr. Jaroslaw Kriukow.

Both websites have apps that allow learners to take eLearning on the go. On Coursera’s app, interviewers can enroll on the “Qualitative Research Methods” course that only takes 24 hours to complete. After improving their skills, they can start to draft their qualitative research interview.

Step 2: Determine Your Goal

The second step in qualitative research is determining the topic of study.

Some examples include:

Custom program purchasing decisions
Strengths and weaknesses in programs
Reactions to educational marketing campaigns
User experience for your e-learning website
Brand or training perceptions
Reactions to mobile technologies and online learning

Researchers may also want to decide how to record their findings. For example, they may want to use video interviews, text-based transcripts, or both. The article “how to transcribe interviews for qualitative research” by Reduct Video can help take advantage of both mediums.

Step 3: Convey Intent

Interviewers are open to asking “Yes” or “No” questions, but if they want the interviewee to understand what’s being asked, the interviewer must convey their intent. For example, if an interviewee says that their learning experience was awful, it’s up to the interviewer to ask why.

The interviewer can also ask the question in several different ways to clarify its meaning. Using the same example as the last paragraph, the interviewer can ask, “Can you tell me exactly what made your learning experience awful?” even if they’ve already asked a similar question.

Step 4: Don’t Sway the Participants

When customers or employees are face-to-face with an interviewer, they are often subjected to acquiescence bias. This bias occurs when an interviewee answers based on what they think the interviewer wants to hear instead of giving their unbiased answer.

To minimize this bias, researchers should explain to the interviewee that they are asking for their opinion because they are experts in their field. This comment shifts the power back to the interviewee. Interviewers should also avoid using positive body language when confirming they’re listening.

When interviewers ask participants about the useability of their programs, they should not lead interviewees to a positive conclusion; they need to determine by themselves if something works.

Interviewers should pay attention to non-verbal cues. The use of video to record interviewee responses along with their tone and body language to receive more accurate data is essential here.

Step 5: Remove Interviewer Bias

Interviewer bias is sometimes more of a problem than interviewee bias. Some interviewers are scared of negative answers, so they won’t ask specific questions or work them differently depending on the interviewee. That’s why it’s better to have a script during the interview.

The department responsible for setting up the interview should layer questions in a way that won’t influence how the interviewee thinks during later questions. At the same time, all interviewers should be vetted during a test run to ensure there won’t be any bias throughout.

Step 6: Test Your Questions

The best qualitative research questions are open-ended, creative, understandable, flexible, and designed with data collection in mind. Interviewers should focus on building rapport with their respondents so they become relaxed and trustworthy. Also, consider these other question tips:

Consider power dimensions
Be aware of cultural differences
Talk less and listen more to
Adjust the interview guide if something isn’t panning out
Be prepared for unanticipated emotions

After a test run, interviewers can initiate it fully and add a post-interview reflection process.

Step 7: Post-Interview Reflection

Depending on the questions, researchers may have received strong reactions and a lot of great ideas. At this point, they can start the data transcription process. The post-interview stage will help researchers determine if their questions were appropriate for their research.

At the same time, they may want to go back and add more hands-on research. In the educational technology sphere, researchers need to determine if their interviewees can follow instructions based on the information the website or product provides.

If the questions are determined to be appropriate, researchers should initiate analysis early because they may have I high-volume of data to work through.

Featured Image: Christina, Unsplash.