Gibbs, Graham R., Taylor, Celia, Fielding, Nigel and Lewins, Ann (2007) Evaluating learner needs in the development of an online training website. In: Beyond The Boundaries, School of Human and Health Sciences Teaching and Learning Conference, 17th July 2007, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

In 2004-5 a team at the University of Huddersfield and the University of Surrey was funded by the ESRC to create a web site to provide training resources for those learning to use qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS) software. Before establishing the website (, we undertook a wide-ranging evaluation of learner needs to guide the design of the online resource.

We carried out a range of interviews or observations with 34 researchers using the software, examined online discussion lists for learner problems and undertook an online survey. The results highlighted several general issues of relevance to the training of researchers in qualitative methods. As well as identifying particular issues of learning and support that the web site needed to address, we noticed that respondents talked generally about the place of software in their own and their peers’ work and other themes emerged in terms of how they talked of and performed qualitative research.

With this information we were able to identify which particular skills were needed by specific groups of learners and users and we designed the web site to address a number of different groups. In particular we identified four groups.
• The complete beginner. Someone who is new to qualitative data analysis in general and especially to the use of CAQDAS software.
• Those thinking of using CAQDAS software. Someone who is familiar with qualitative analysis methods, but is now thinking about using software or has been advised to use software and needs to select an appropriate program.
• Researchers just starting with CAQDAS software. Someone with some or a lot of experience in doing qualitative data analysis but who is new to using software to assist with such analysis.
• Experienced CAQDAS users with problems using the software.

The paper will highlight how the web site was structured to reflect these needs and what particular facilities we develop to address some of the specific needs we identified. The paper will conclude with some observations about the value of seeing learning needs from the perspective of those struggling to learn new skills

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