Week 4

27/07/2020 – 31/07/2020

During this week we have focused on recruitment for both the survey and interviews. We have done this by posting on relevant social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook groups for the University of Reading and Instagram. We then contacted various departments in the University to share these posts to reach a range of students. This was very successful with us gaining around 60 responses within the first day of promoting the survey. As well as this we also received multiple emails from students and graduates willing to take part in the interviews.

The manager of the RED Award also kindly offered to share our recruitment post with their mailing list. The RED Award stands for The Reading Experience and Development Award and is the University’s official employability skills certificate. The RED Award requires students to complete 35 hours of core activity, 10 hours of volunteering and 5 hours of training & development. We feel this will encourage people to complete our survey as they will be offered 15-minutes towards their award.

We have been overwhelmed with the supportive response from various departments within the University, who have recognised the importance of the project and forwarded our recruitment posts to students at the University. Some staff and academic representatives have also given us alternative places to advertise our project which has been incredibly helpful, as we would not have had access to some of the platforms and may not have considered them an option.

We found that a large majority of responses were from individuals with mental health difficulties in comparison to autism and specific learning difficulties. Although we were expecting there to be more respondents with mental health conditions as they are more prevalent, we were not expecting the difference to be this noticeable. Consequently, we approached the University’s Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) Social group to try to aim recruitment specifically at students with autism. This proved successful as we did gain more responses from this group.

After the first day of promotion, responses slowed down considerably which we feel is due to algorithms on social media, meaning that posts are pushed to the bottom of the timeline. This means that our recruitment posts were not visible to students and graduates after the first day. We had not anticipated how regularly we would need to update our social media pages to continually gain respondents. To boost recruitment and make it more engaging, we created a gif to share on our platforms to capture the attention of students.

This week we also finalised our interview questions, which involved adding probes and prompts to our interview schedule to gather as much detailed information as possible. We discovered that we were unable to record on Microsoft Teams from our student accounts, so we used Blackboard Collaborate instead. This required us to inform the Ethics Committee of the change and become familiar with the software by practicing mock interviews. Towards the end of the week, we undertook the first few interviews which we found really informative. We had originally planned to review our interview schedule after the first few interviews, but found the questions were coherent and well-structured as they flowed nicely from one question to the next. When playing the recordings back for transcription, we were able to identify ways in which we could improve in our upcoming interviews.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the practical aspect of data collection this week and we look forward to continuing our interviews next week and hearing more about students’ lived experiences.

Post written by: Bryony, Charis and Michelle