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Online Qualitative Data Collection: Methods, Technology and Ethics

Course Dates and Times

Monday 7 – Friday 11 August 2023
Minimum 2 hours of live teaching per day
15:00 – 17:00 CEST

Bojana Lobe

University of Ljubljana

This course offers an interactive online learning environment using advanced pedagogical tools, and is specifically designed for advanced students, researchers, and professional analysts. The course is limited to a maximum of 12 participants, ensuring that the teaching team can address the unique needs of each individual.

Purpose of the course

This course focuses on the use of digital technologies for qualitative data collection, from a conceptual and an applied perspective, including logistical, technical and ethical issues.

It provides hands-on training in online qualitative data collection methods, covering methodological and practical aspects of online focus groups, online interviewing, and virtual ethnography (online fieldwork). 

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • understand concepts and assumptions of social science methodology using digital technologies
  • design research with online qualitative data collection
  • collect qualitative data online
  • address technological and ethical issues using digital technologies.
ECTS Credits

4 credits - Engage fully in class activities and complete a post-class assignment

Instructor Bio

Bojana Lobe is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, where she teaches various methods courses, including Social Science Data Collection and Digital Technologies.

Her research interests include online qualitative research methods, integration of qualitative and quantitative methods online, qualitative comparative analysis, and researching children’s experiences online with mixed methods.

She is the author of the book Integration of Online Research Methods and of several chapters and articles on conducting online focus groups and interviews. She is a member of the research programme Social Science Methodology, Statistics and Informatics at the University of Ljubljana.

Since 2006, Bojana has been actively involved in researching the experiences of children and young people with internet and digital technologies through various projects:

Key topics covered

1. Overview and introduction

Starting with looking at digital technologies as a social science data collection tool and as a space for online social formations. You will be introduced to online qualitative research methods while looking into various temporal dimensions (synchronous, asynchronous), platform- or app-specific formats (text-based, audio, video-based). You will explore the pros and cons of online data collection in general.

2. Online focus groups

There will be discussions on the fundamentals of focus groups as a group-dynamic based method. You will learn how to design an online focus group, from selection and recruitment to participant numbers. You will tackle challenges in research design and moderation, and look at how to prepare question guidelines. There will be the opportunity to compare various online focus group formats (eg, text-based, video-based) and do a hands-on exercise: conducting online focus groups.

3. Online interviewing

You will learn about the fundamentals of qualitative interviewing, followed by how to design online interviews and prepare questions for them. You will tackle critical issues for successful online interviewing: absence of social-context cues, building rapport online, how to build and sustain interaction and how to address trust issues online. Various formats of online interviewing (text-based, video-based, one-on-one, and dyadic, informal, in-depth, expert) will be covered and you will take part in a hands-on exercise: conducting online qualitative interviews.

4. Virtual ethnography (online fieldwork)

There will be discussions on the fundamentals of fieldwork method. You will learn how to design a study with online fieldwork, discuss various online fields (venues), how to choose sites, temporal dimensions of online fieldwork and participant observation, documenting online, asking questions online, issues of covert / overt online fieldwork. There will be a hands-on exercise: conducting online fieldwork.

5. Flexible Online Mixed Methods: ‘FOMM’

You will explore Flexible Online Mixed Methods, a combination of online qualitative methods with web surveys, etc. You will review various technological platforms and engage in a critical discussion, tackling key ethical concepts in online research, such as privacy, anonymity, confidentiality, data security, withdrawal, debriefing, and informed consent.

How the course will work online

The course has two main stages, pre-course work followed by five days of two-hour live teaching sessions, in Zoom.

Independent, pre-course stage starting two weeks prior to the course start date

  • Access to preparatory readings for each of the five topics.
  • Pre-recorded topic lectures prepared by the Instructor.
  • Online forum to encourage discussion between participants.

Five live days

  • Short sessions for focused discussion about the pre-recorded lectures and preparatory readings.
  • Presentation of participants’ own projects.
  • Group consultations about how to make progress.
  • Plenary ‘lessons learned’ sessions.

Prior knowledge of qualitative methods is beneficial, but by no means a requirement.

Independent, pre-course work will begin two weeks prior to the course, including the following:

  • Access to preparatory readings for each of the five topics
  • Pre-recorded topic lectures prepared by the Instructor
  • Online forum to encourage discussion between participants

Each course includes pre-course assignments, including readings and pre-recorded videos, as well as daily live lectures totalling at least three hours. The instructor will conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

Please check your course format before registering.

Online courses

Live classes will be held daily for three hours on a video meeting platform, allowing you to interact with both the instructor and other participants in real-time. To avoid online fatigue, the course employs a pedagogy that includes small-group work, short and focused tasks, as well as troubleshooting exercises that utilise a variety of online applications to facilitate collaboration and engagement with the course content.

In-person courses

In-person courses will consist of daily three-hour classroom sessions, featuring a range of interactive in-class activities including short lectures, peer feedback, group exercises, and presentations.


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc.). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.