Interview and Focus Group Questions

[Read this prologue to all participants.]

The UCD School of Education supports various Internet tools that can have an impact on teaching and learning. Specifically, these Internet tools are

• Colorado Education Online (CEO),

• e-mail and individual accounts on the university servers (Carbon and Ouray), and

• the World Wide Web, which can be accessed via a direct connection to the university’s server from campus (computer labs or faculty offices) or from your home via an Internet Service Provider (such as Colorado Supernet or MCI).

For my dissertation, I am investigating the factors that affect the use of e-mail and the Internet in the UCD School of Education. I would like to know how you currently are, or are planning to, use the Internet to support your own or your students’ learning. I would also like to know what problems you’re running into, what types of improvements you’d like to see, and how these activities actually influence your own learning and conceptual change as well as that of your colleagues and classmates. Your responses are purely voluntary, and your answers will be confidential.


[Directions for the School Psychology Cohort Focus Group]

I would like to start by having you fill out a short questionnaire about your prior experience with Internet tools. Then I would like to discuss the following ten questions with you as a group.

[Opening question for the Focus Group]

What got you interested in using the Internet in the first place?


1. To what extent are you using the Internet?


• How many times per week?

• From where?

• What tools or applications do you use?


2. What are your reasons for using the Internet?


• How do you use it to find information?

• How do you use it to share or disseminate information?

• How effective is e-mail for reaching people when you need them?

• Do you feel CEO class conferences enhance and enrich class discussions?


3. What problems or concerns do you have about using the Internet?


• How comfortable or proficient do you feel about using Internet tools?

• How comfortable do you feel composing and sharing messages online?

• What personal value do you see in using it?

• Do you have any other reservations about it?


4. How does the School of Education’s incentive structure influence your use of the Internet?


• Do you feel the Internet is compatible with your own lifestyle and personal philosophy?

• What payoff do you see, in terms of grades, tenure, or status in the School?

• To what extent do you feel persuaded (or coerced) to use Internet tools?

• What do you consider to be a sensible balance of payoff or value vs. the time it takes to learn how to use them well?


5. What do you consider to be appropriate or legitimate uses of Internet tools, within the School of Education, and why?


• How does the use of Internet tools support the overall aim or goal of the School as you see it?

• How does the Internet support disciplined inquiry or research activities?

• How does the Internet support professional engagement in your particular emphasis area?

• How does the Internet support your professional leadership and commitment?


6. Currently, you can’t access the full capabilities of the Internet from home without paying for an Internet Service Provider. Since the labs have direct connectivity, it is easier to improve the usability of the Internet in the labs than at home.

(A) What improvements would you suggest for the design, interface, Internet tools, and usability of the computers in the UCD Labs?


• What Internet tools do you currently find most useful, and why?

• What additional tools or design changes would you like to see in the computers in the lab, to improve their functionality?

• What sorts of job aids would you find most useful? (E.g. booklets, tutorials, etc.)

• What types of technical support have you found to be most helpful?


(B) What improvements would you suggest for the design, interface, Internet tools, and usability for your home computer? Remember that many Internet tools require TCP/IP connectivity, which, in turn, requires you to pay a monthly fee to an Internet Service Provider.


• What additional tools or changes to the interface would improve the functionality of your home access?

• What sort of scaffolding and job aids would be most useful to you when you are working from home?


7. What changes to the School of Education’s communication and support structure would be most helpful to you for overcoming challenges that you encounter in learning how to use Internet tools appropriately?


• More help from GA’s in the lab?

• Workshops on specific topics such as searching for information on the Internet?

• Requiring all students to use CEO so that upcoming free workshops and online assistance would be available to everyone on a timely basis?

• More individual or small group mentoring in the lab?

• Internet fundamentals covered as part of the introductory courses?

• More dialogue and communication with technical support personnel?

• Modeling and coaching by students who have mastered Internet fundamentals, as occasional visiting lecturers in classes?


8. As a student or faculty member, you are part of a learning community. I’d like to explore the ways in which the social influence of your colleagues and the communication channels within the School of Education affects your use of the Internet.

(A) How does the way in which you are joined to the School’s or your program’s communication channels influence the way in which you use the Internet?


• Do you and your colleagues frequently communicate via e-mail? Class conferences?

• Do you keep in close contact via e-mail with your advisor? Your professors? Your program committee?

• Do you read the technical support notices and online helpdesk messages on CEO?

• Would short tutorials on Internet basics in a division or program newsletter be useful?

• Do you find CINS publications useful?

• How do you feel about having short introductory sessions in class for new Internet users?


(B) I would like to find out the three people you talk to most frequently about how you use the Internet for teaching and learning. This includes whom you consult with about technology ideas, activities and problems, [for faculty: about how you design your classes], and how you use the Internet to support your own professional growth. I’d like you to name specific names. In my analysis, these names will be replaced with identification codes to preserve anonymity.

Respondent Name________________________________

Respondent Code_____________

Persons the respondent talks to about the Internet and technology:

Influencer #1 Name_______________________________

Influencer #1 Code_____________

Influencer #2 Name_______________________________

Influencer #2 Code_____________

Influencer #3 Name_______________________________

Influencer #3 Code_____________


9. You are free to participate in Internet conferences as an active speaker/write, or to listen in on "conversations" and learn from what others are sharing.

How do you feel that Internet activities such as electronic conferencing and e-mail messaging impact your own learning and conceptual change? Your adoption and use of Internet tools?


• Do you frequently e-mail the group when your class is having an electronic conference?

• Do you reflect on what is being said, and use this information to reconfigure your own understanding of the topic being discussed?

• Do you feel that as you use Internet tools more and more, you become more frustrated with them, or you become more comfortable with them?

• Specifically, how would you say that the use of Internet tools has changed your own process of learning?


10. As part of a learning community, you’ll find that meaning is often negotiated in dialogue among yourself and your colleagues, face-to-face or electronically.

How do you feel your own learning, growth, and change influences other members of your class, your program or division, or the School of Education?


[Summary Question]

Here’s a brief overview of the questions and big ideas that were raised in this discussion.



[give a short oral summary]

Is this an adequate summary?



[Final Wrap-up for the Focus Group]

Here’s a short review of the purpose of my study.

For my dissertation, I am investigating the factors that affect the use of e-mail and the Internet in the UCD School of Education. Insights into the relative importance of these factors will place the School of Education in a better position to support new users as they begin to use the Internet and its associated tools to support teaching and learning.


Have I missed anything?

[Allow about ten minutes at the close of the interview to gather up any loose ends.]



Thank you for your participation.

When I have completed the draft of my dissertation, I will post a copy on my Web page so you may see the results of this study. The URL is: