4 years ago

Insights for conducting real-time focus groups online using a web conferencing service [version 2; referees: 2 approved]

Philayrath Phongsavan, James Kite
Background: Online focus groups have been increasing in use over the last 2 decades, including in biomedical and health-related research. However, most of this research has made use of text-based services such as email, discussion boards, and chat rooms that do not replicate the experience of face-to-face focus groups. Web conferencing services have the potential to more closely match the face-to-face focus group experience, including important visual and aural cues. This paper provides critical reflections on using a web conferencing service to conduct online focus groups. Methods: We conducted both online and face-to-face focus groups as part of the same study. The online groups were conducted in real-time using the web conferencing service, Blackboard Collaborate TM. We used reflective practice to assess the similarities and differences in the conduct and content of the groups across the two platforms. Results: We found that further research using such services is warranted, particularly when working with hard-to-reach or geographically dispersed populations. The level of discussion and the quality of the data obtained was similar to that found in face-to-face groups. However, some issues remain, particularly in relation to managing technical issues experienced by participants and ensuring adequate recording quality to facilitate transcription and analysis. Conclusions: Our experience with using web conferencing for online focus groups suggests that they have the potential to offer a realistic and comparable alternative to face-to-face focus groups, especially for geographically dispersed populations such as rural and remote health practitioners. Further testing of these services is warranted but researchers should carefully consider the service they use to minimise the impact of technical difficulties.

Publisher URL: https://f1000research.com/articles/6-122/v2

DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.10427.2

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