APPENDIX C

Why Use Case Study Research method-

This research takes a case study approach (Yin, 2009) using a theoretical perspective of Social Action, a theory according to Max Weber,(2009, p. 118) “is action that takes others into account.”  Employing descriptive case study design and methods, this strategy explores instances of GeoTol Online Training during which learning groups (unit of analysis) are exposed to varying degrees of social process and describes the resulting group learning outcomes.  Although the case will observe changes in student behavior, attitudes, and group learning outcomes, what is more important is how the information will be used by the students, trainers, managers and facilitators to improve their online training effectiveness that leads to business results.  This approach endeavors to clarify the meaning of the term social stuff, giving targeted readers a common language about the value of social process employed in online training with workforce learners.

Yin recommends case study as a methodology if the problem to be studied “relates to developing an in-depth understanding of a case” and if the purpose is to understand “an event, activity, process, or one or more individuals”.  According to Yin,(1992) a case study approach is an empirical inquiry, a study verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. This case study investigates a contemporary phenomenon (social process) within real-life context (outcomes of GeoTol learning groups).

I chose not to use controlled experiments and surveys, for they have a specific focus placed on a few variables, are taken out of context, and tested in controlled environments.  Low volume, large variation found in this real life study creates difficulties translating results from the small sample to the larger population.  Furthermore, circular causality, a series of events influenced by the preceding events, creates a range of possibilities generating an ever-moving target.  In this research situation, I had little control over the subjects and statistics from the samples of experiments would not produce reliable inferences.  Here the “representative whole” is not the same as the sum of individual experiments that one can extrapolate or infer.

This study was taken in context and relies on multiple sources of evidence and the data converges in a triangulating fashion.  The next graphic depicts a case study approach using multiple sources of evidence, where data converges.  There are six types of data collected in case studies: documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant observation, and artifacts.(Yin, 1992, p. 83)

Determining the data gathering and analysis techniques: Instrumentation

Several instruments will be used to collect data.  There are six types of data collected in case studies: documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant observation, and artifacts.(Yin, 1992, p. 83)  In this research, the six sources will include emails and other communications; syllabi, agendas, meeting minutes and other written reports, administrative documents such as grade books, progress reports; telephone interviews, recorded observations by researcher; training evaluations by the participants; and may include artifacts such as articles in a company newsletter.

One instrument used to collect data is based on the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation model.(Kirkpatrick, 1998)  The model includes four levels, with each level building on the previous evaluation.  GeoTol online training builds evaluation questions into the training exercises to measure participants’ reactions, their learning, how they changed behavior (implementing what they learned or changed attitude), and estimated return on investment because of applied learning.  Samples of training evaluation questions and results can be found in appendix.

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By combining multiple observers, theories, methods, and materials, the research can overcome the weaknesses that result from single method, single-observer and single-theory studies.  Triangulation, the process of developing multi-source converging evidence, provides a powerful technique that facilitates validation of data through cross verification from various sources.  Although it is more difficult and more expensive to do, this research method is more beneficial than single survey or controlled experiment.  Housekeeping and organization of documentation and data collected will be essential and will require a database to eliminate wasted time and rework and make raw data available for independent inspection.  The database may be comprised of four components: notes, documents, tabular materials, and narratives.

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