A Qualitative Approach to Researching the Evolution of an Innovation through the 20-Year Lens of an R&D Unit in Online Instruction

Sharon Gan 1 * , Edward Meyen 2 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 174-194

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Online instruction is one of those rare innovations in higher education that evolved to implementation and common practice within a relatively short period of time. This paper describes a qualitative methodology used to analyze an archive of rich primary documents generated from the twenty-year history of a university-based interdisciplinary research and development (R&D) initiative in online instruction. Archival research is a qualitative method for collecting data from existing recorded data and then making sense of it. Thematic analysis of primary resources detailing R&D work in a higher education center that spanned from 1996 through 2015 led to finding salient themes of a time prior to the establishment of academic policies and/or wide spread support in higher education governance for online instruction. The approach was selected to uncover potential lessons learned over the life cycle of an R&D unit engaged in the design, development, and research of online instruction. This work resulted in the documentation and coding of archival sources that highlighted key lessons learned on the implementation and replication of interventions resulting from research and development initiatives.

Keywords: Online instruction, higher education, qualitative research, archival research, documenting innovation