As you are aware, the Communications Studies department recently developed two new courses to be taken in sequence and which should prepare CS graduates for higher degree programs or the demands of workplace research. These classes are COMM 480, Research Methods, and COMM 495, Senior Seminar for which the major project involves original research by the student.
BACKGROUND OF THE RESEARCH SITUATION
When something new is begun, those who created it evaluate what they have done and are interested in constructive suggestions for improving it, whatever it is. In this case, it is a one of two classes: COMM 480 and COMM 495 and we have three levels of research to consider:
Formative. Formative evaluation methods such as reviews by experts and usability tests are normally completed prior to new classes being staffed and taught. These methods seek to demonstrate the classes work and are usable by the teachers and students.
Summative. Summative evaluation methods such as examinations, tests, assessment projects (such as the Senior Research Project, and portfolios are normally completed in the individual classes under the control of the teachers. These methods seek to demonstrate that learning actually takes places.
Reflective. Reflective evaluation methods such as surveys are normally completed after the classes have run a few times and enough people have had experience with the classes to offer us information that can be used to improve the classes.
Now that the classes have run a full year, we have the potential of enough people to provide us with useful data. I have been waiting for this moment to arrive! Now is the time to begin serious discussions about what we can study and how we can conduct that study.
THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
I see two research avenues at this time. Well, maybe three. The first is in response to a problem with COMM 495. This is the problem of students enrolling in the course when they do not possess the skills to succeed or any number of reasons such as not being near graduation, not having completed the prerequisite courses, not knowing how to create various types of documents, and not having good enough editing and proofreading skills to put a professional polish on their work. To help us understand this problem, we need to gather data. To that end I have created a survey that is presently in beta state.
ACTION ITEM: I seek beta testers to complete the survey as if they were students just starting COMM 495 To beta test this survey, go to the link and open the survey. Have a pad a paper and pen handy for making notes in case you see typos, errors, or omissions and to keep track of your time. On the last page of the survey, you will see an open text box where you may leave your feedback. Please include in your feedback the time it took you to complete the survey. I suggest that you create your feedback in your word processing program and just copy-and-paste it into the text box. Once you hit Submit, you are done. LINK: http://www.surveyexpression.com/Survey.aspx?id=55b20fc8-2e89-4eef-81b9-eec4dcd5f501
The second research avenue is still in the idea stage. How can we obtain specific feedback from students to compare with and supplement the university course evaluations and teacher after-action-reports? That is an idea to which I invite you to respond here with comments.
The third research avenue is a biggie and is in response to a problem in the COMM 480 class: We do not have research projects available for students to plug into. We, the Communication Studies department, need to develop a large, ongoing, research project run by faculty but which allows for smaller student projects. This research avenue is not even to the idea stage. I invite you to investigate with your favorite search engine what other schools have done, and--if you have any suggestions for us--please feel free to leave your comments.
Here is what my first Google search returned to the key words: university communications research:
Here is what appears to be an ongoing project by Professor Donald Cox at Stanford University: http://wireless.stanford.edu/
Here is an interesting approach towards research at the University of Ohio: http://www.coms.ohiou.edu/research-participation
I hope you can spend a few minutes looking for large projects at other schools and sharing that information here. I will try to add more links when I can.
Your thoughts about research?