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Blended research methods pave the way for research during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes in the lives of each one of us in one way or the other. The pandemic has challenged existing social norms, rendered systems ineffective, and has also raised questions regarding the sustainability of mankind’s approaches to resource use and allocation. One field where the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being seen is in research. A recent study focussing on the changes being brought about in the field of research in terms of the new methods being introduced to deal with the pandemic-imposed restrictions suggested that blending online and offline research methods may be vital to continue to generate knowledge through research.

Moreover, Rob Johnson, who was one of the authors of the interesting study, has also said that “We anticipate that some of these online research methods will continue to be deployed even when researchers can resume travel and human interactions, leading to a ‘blended’ research approach that combines the best of both worlds,”

While traditionally, research requires a lot of hands-on involvement with research subjects, the pandemic has meant that most primary research has been halted. However, this has not meant that researchers have accepted defeat. Surprisingly, the pandemic has yielded a new method of ‘blended’ research, which involves combining digital or online data collection with primary research.

While the research community had adopted a suspicious view of the new online research methods of Skype interviews, the pandemic has caused a shift in their thinking. For example, Dr Buckler, who had planned to run a workshop in Sierra Leone with students who were in the process of training to be teachers, had to reorganize her plan due to the pandemic.

She said, “In lots of probably quite unanticipated ways, the pandemic is having a positive effect in forcing UK-based researchers to question the ease with which they can just hop on a plane and get access to schools and communities and will hopefully encourage us to question the appropriateness of this and how we can work more ethically and collaboratively with researchers and people in different contexts,”

Dr Buckler also shared that one of her own students on a post-doctoral course found an amazing advantage of conducting interviews via Skype. The student, who was interviewing mothers, found that using Skype granted mothers more flexibility in terms of a suitable time at which they could comfortably answer the student’s questions, probably when their children were asleep, and therefore providing more detailed answers.

Lastly, Kate McGrath, the deputy vice-chancellor of research at the University of Technology Sydney said, “Blended research methods will certainly become more prevalent in the academy over the coming years, both out of financial necessity and, critically, for the benefits, it can offer − and we should definitely be talking about this more, as it presents an opportunity to diversify current research practices,”.

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