Friday, August 9, 2013

First Web Conferencing Interview

On Sunday, I conducted my first real web conferencing interview for research purposes.  I mention real because I've conducted two online interviews as pilots, however they were through Skype, which my IRB does not approve because Skype calls can be easily intercepted, and therefore I cannot guarantee privacy or confidentiality.  However, with the latest news concerning the US government PRISM surveillance program and corporate compliance, I don't think I can guarantee privacy or confidentiality with any online communication.  The IRB believed that Adobe Connect offered more security than Skype, so I was able to conduct my first web conferencing interview using Adobe Connect.  One reason I chose Adobe Connect was that I had 3 years of experience using the program to assist the Education Policy & Leadership Studies department in the College of Education with their hybrid online courses.

If you're interested in how I did this, I created a meeting on Adobe Connect for this purpose.  When you create a meeting, a link is provided to be shared with guest participants. I shared the link with my research participant who logged in as a guest, and then I helped her set up her webcam and mic.  Before that, however, I let her know the specifications for joining an Adobe Connect meeting.  The only preferred specification that she couldn't meet was avoiding a wireless connection.  Fortunately for us, the wireless connection was strong enough that it was only dropped once during the 2.5-hour interview.

Adobe Connect offers a recording option, but I opted out because I did not want the conference stored in the institution's Adobe Connect account and I did need to capture video.  Instead I captured the audio portion of the interview using Audacity.  Because I was using my Macbook Pro, I could have easily used Garageband as well but I piloted with Audacity, and it demonstrated reliability so there was no reason for me to change.  If I wanted to publish the audio interview, then Garageband would have been easier, but I cannot and will not publish the raw interview.

What did I learn from this type of interview process?
  1. Adobe Connect has a greater broadcasting delay problem than Skype.  I have used Skype to communicate with pilot participants and friends in Japan and Germany, and I experienced little to no delay in the communication.  However, Adobe Connect had a noticeable delay for my communication to South Korea.  I do not believe South Korea is at fault for this delay because no country is more wired than South Korea.
  2. The technical issues doubled my anxiety for the first 30 minutes.  Not only was I nervous because I wanted my first interview to go well, but my concern for having little to no technical issues made it more difficult for me to focus on my participant.  It was during the first 30 minutes that the connection dropped, so I was a little freaked out at that point.
  3. The delay took a while to get used to.  Not only did I have to learn a new way to pace the interview, but I also had to cope with hearing myself delayed on her end.  Every time I asked a question, my echo would repeat that question about 5-10 seconds later.  That echo sometimes helped me figure out when she would start speaking, so I didn't feel uncomfortable with the silent pauses on her end.
  4. Even if you want to plow through a lengthy interview, take a break when you get one.  I purposefully divided my interview into 3 sections.  Although I skipped the first break, I took the second one, and I needed it.  After that break, I was much calmer and more confident about the interview process.  That break also gave Adobe Connect a break in that I noticed the echo issue was toned down in the second half or third third.
  5. An interview script is your friend.  When I piloted my interview face-to-face, it was easier to let it flow into a conversation.  But because of the irregularities of a web conferencing interview, this flow could not be transferred.  Perhaps if I had more practice interviewing with delayed online communication, perhaps I could discover a new conversational flow.  However, I would prefer to avoid this type of delay if I could.  The interview script always kept me focused when a technical issue distracted me.  The interview script worked well on my computer because I could set up the script next to the video of my participant, so I could maintain eye contact much better than a face-to-face interview.  So that's one positive aspect of conducting an interview online.
Last but not least, I was very fortunate to have a flexible and easygoing participant for my first web conferencing interview.  She was completely understanding of the technical issues and did not get upset if I had to ask her to repeat her responses if I couldn't hear her.  She made it a much more manageable and enjoyable experience.

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