A Researcher’s Journal: transcribing is boring and analyzing is the Indiana Jones-part of research

I decided early on that I wanted to know students’ perceptions of learning and their motivation to learn in a virtual learning environment. The rest was easy (well sort of). I realized that I wanted to interview students. To me it made no sense to talk about a virtual learning experience face-to-face, I wanted to stay virtual and do the interviews online. My colleague Andreas Sundstedt suggested straight away that I should use the university’s Adobe Connect video conference space. BUT since we used Google+ during the virtual course with my students I tried to find a Google Hangout option, which proved to be impossible, unless I was willing to make the interviews public, and that would’ve created a whole new set of problems in a scientific study. Doing the interviews in Second Life was of course another option, since part of the course took place in the virtual world, but there were too many technical issues with voice chat in Second Life, and also the small matter of actually being able to record the voices.

There were different suggestions on different blogs, but none worked for me. Luckily I only downloaded 2-3 unnecessary programs and I spent about two weeks trying to find a way to record my students’ voices. Thus I ended up using the Adobe Connect alternative and it worked like a charm! The only drawback with AC is that you get a large video file (.flv) and I used Wondershare Video Converter to change the files to mp3s.  This seems to be one of those bugs that technology will eventually sort out, but for now it’s easy to record your own voice, but it’s difficult to record someone else’s. Obviously I could have used my colleague’s suggestion straight away, but that’s not how a researcher works. You need to get your facts straight and dig around a little, even if you, in the end, realize that you really didn’t dig up much new stuff. At least you know that.

Wastelands SL excavation site_001

The Wastelands excavation site in Second Life. Here there be huge skeletons! CC Charlotta Hilli

For some reason I thought that the transcription-phase would be a lot of fun, since I could begin the digging (if I stick to my archeology-metaphor). It’s not a bad thing to listen through an interview several times, and sure, there is a bit of digging going on, but mostly it’s a mechanical task and you need to write down exactly what the person says. There is little time for analyzing what the person says. A one hour interview takes between 4-8 hours to transcribe depending on what system you use. And it’s boring. What you want to find is a dinosaur or a rare artifact of some kind, in my case a new perspective on learning and motivation. Unfortunately there’s a whole lot of removing topsoil before you get that far and sadly little Indiana Jones-related action although you’re on the front line of science.

I used InqScribe for transcribing and it’s quite simple to use with few bugs in my opinion, also the video tutorials are excellent. I think I’ll use Scrivener, and pens and paper, for the analysis since I like the idea that you can add notes and comments all over the place in Scrivener. Now I’m looking forward to the analyzing-phase (and finding a virtual dinosaur!), which I confused with transcribing in the first place. Surely there will be at least a few Indiana Jones-moments while analyzing, right?


Charlotta Hilli is a PhD student at Åbo Akademi University and is doing her research in connection with the project Didactical Dimensions in Digital learning



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