Planning and Facilitating Focus Groups

Focus groupFocus groups are a great way to collect qualitative research data. They’re excellent for helping gain an insight into the views and perceptions of people, and a really great way of understanding users. They can be used to get feedback on products or services, or to help plan future developments. They’re often used in market research but can be adapted for a number of different purposes. One way we have used focus groups at Evidence Base was to gain a deeper understanding of student’s views on e-books and print books – their preferences, use, and reasons behind these. This was incredibly useful for supporting future purchasing decisions and user support. We’ve facilitated focus groups for a number of different organisations, including many libraries, and if you’d like us to work with you on this, please contact us.

Focus group training workshop

However, we recognised there was a need for training to enable other people to plan and facilitate their own focus groups or improve ones they already do. Following a number of requests for support in this, we spent time designing a training workshop on this topic. This started as a half-day workshop, but it has since expanded into a full day workshop to allow time for the theory, practice and planning.

The aims of the workshop are to help attendees:

  • Understand the value of focus groups and consider when they would be appropriate
  • Plan, organise and facilitate a focus group
  • Prepare activities for different types of focus groups to maximise the information collected
  • Report findings from focus groups to different stakeholders

The workshop includes a presentation to cover the logistics of focus groups, techniques to attract attendees, techniques to improve facilitation, and how to record and share the results of the focus group. It also includes a series of focus groups activities, based around a neutral topic, to experience the different types of activities you could include in focus groups. This then allows participants to consider how these could be adapted for their own focus groups.

We ran the first full day workshop in September, and had very positive feedback. Some comments included:

“Very thorough information and an excellent balance between theory and practical.”

“It has given me a theoretical and practical grounding for ideas and activities I have seen in use and participated in. I now have a clear idea of what sort of activities I would / wouldn’t use in different focus groups, and a good understanding of how people react differently to activities.”

“The activities were really useful to see how to make focus groups more interactive.”

“The handbook and individual exercises were laid out really clearly and will be really useful in future. The presentation was really clear and easy to follow.”

Book your place

Due to the success of the first workshop, we’ve scheduled another date to repeat it – Tuesday January 13th 2015. Booking is now open so you can find out more at http://www.bcu.ac.uk/evidence-base/training-and-events/planning-and-facilitating-focus-groups and book your place at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/focusgroupworkshop.

Hope to see some of you there!

Planning and facilitating focus groups workshop – booking now open

Focus group

Focus group

Would you like to get feedback from your users? Understand more about their needs? Get their opinion on new developments or services?

Focus groups help you achieve the above and more. They are also an excellent way to feed into future planning and provide evidence to support your commitment to Customer Service Excellence.

Evidence Base are facilitating a one-day workshop to help you learn how to plan and facilitate focus groups. The workshop covers logistics; techniques to attract attendees; activities to engage participants; techniques to improve facilitation; and how to record and share the results of the focus group.

The workshop is interactive in nature, with discussion points throughout, and an opportunity to try focus group activities out for yourself. There will be the opportunity to share your own experiences, and learn from other attendees’ experiences. You will leave the workshop equipped with the knowledge and skills to enable you to plan and facilitate your own focus groups, and will have begun the planning process for your next focus group.

The workshop is 10am-4pm on Monday 15th September in central Birmingham. For further information see the event information page and book your place using the online booking form.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the workshop, attendees will be able to:

  • Understand the value of focus groups and consider when they would be appropriate
  • Plan, organise and facilitate a focus group
  • Prepare activities for different types of focus groups to maximise the information collected
  • Report findings from focus groups to different stakeholders

Feedback from previous workshop attendees:

“Really see the value in doing focus groups now and feel a lot more confident about conducting them”

“Great ideas; great activities; made me plan our first focus group with more vision, we were previously struggling.”

“Really well structured. I feel like I could run a session now and I had no prior knowledge.”

“Loved the use of activities to demonstrate their effectiveness.”

Further information

If you have any questions about the workshop, please contact the workshop facilitator, Jo Alcock.

SCONUL Value and Impact Study

SCONUL logo

SCONUL logo

Evidence Base has been commissioned by SCONUL (Society of College, National & University Libraries) to work on a Value and Impact Study. The main aim of the study is:

to review existing studies, projects and statistics on the value and impact of HE libraries to develop resources for use by SCONUL Executive Board and Executive Director, and for SCONUL members

The project started this week, and will continue until December. Over the course of the next few months we’ll be involved in both primary and secondary research to bring together information on the value and impact of academic libraries. Further information about the study including the methodology, deliverables, and timescale is available on the project blog: http://sconulvalueandimpactstudy.wordpress.com

If you’re aware of any studies, projects, toolkits etc. that it would be useful for us to include, or if you’re doing any work in your own library to demonstrate value and impact, we’d love to hear from you – please use the contact form to let us know.

The Professional Development Cycle

I was recently invited to join ARLG North East for their ‘Professional Development Never Sleeps’ event and was asked to provide a workshop style session to open the event. As I was sketching out the workshop, I knew I wanted to include information about planning professional development activities, participating in them, and reflecting on them. As the planning progressed I realised I wanted to talk about professional development as part of an ongoing process rather than a series of discrete activities. And so The Professional Development Cycle was created:

The Professional Development Cycle

The Professional Development Cycle

The workshop was structured around the five different stages and at each point I shared my own tips from my experiences, and we also had the opportunity to discuss it as a group. The workshop was well received, and there was some great advice shared. You can see a Storify from the event produced by the organisers at: https://storify.com/ARLGNorthEast/professional-development-never-sleeps

I’ve been invited to deliver a similar workshop at the Libraries@Cambridge conference in January and I’m sure that group will also have some great ideas.

Do you have 30 minutes spare to discuss OER?

Evidence Base at Birmingham City University are currently working with the Jorum (http://jorum.ac.uk) team at Mimas (University of Manchester) to create a series of case studies about Jorum use. So, if you have used Jorum and would be willing to share your experiences of using and sharing Open Educational Resources (OERs), we want to hear from you.

The information will be collected via a short interview, which will be written up as a case study for the Jorum website. The interviews should take approximately 30 minutes via telephone or Skype.

If you are willing to be interviewed, please leave your details in our very short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/jorumcasestudies

Please do share this request amongst your networks/colleagues – we need your stories!

G4HE webinar

One of the projects we are currently working on is hosting a free webinar on 22nd October. See the details below to find out if it’s something you may be interested in attending. 

G4HE logo

G4HE logo

Are you a research manager, administrator, or researcher? Wonder who you could be collaborating with? The G4HE project (Gateway for Higher Education) is a Jisc-funded project with the aim of improving access for HEIs to information held by the Research Councils, by giving something useful in return for all the effort that goes into creating, maintaining, and collecting this research information. It uses the BIS-funded RCUK Gateway to Research API to retrieve the data they collect from institutional research management systems like Research Fish and ROS. Using this data, the G4HE tools have been developed to help Higher Education institutions (HEIs) answer questions such as:

  • Which other HEIs did my institution collaborate with last year and how much value did those collaborations bring in?
  • Are there other HEIs working in a similar area that we could collaborate with in future?
  • How does the value of our research compare with other institutions or research groups?

G4HE is hosting a free webinar to introduce you to the tools being developed and consider how these could be used in institutions. The webinar is on 22nd October 2013 from 1pm until 2pm – book your place now at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/8548036407.

IRUS-UK new users survey feedback

IRUS logo

IRUS logo

Evidence Base is responsible for community engagement on the IRUS-UK project, a Jisc-funded project developing a statistics service for repositories in UK Further and Higher Education institutions. As part of the community engagement, we survey new joiners to the service to get her their first impressions, collect ideas and suggestions, and discover the areas they need more support with. Their feedback informs the technical development and guidance and support aspects of the project:

  • Technical development – we keep a technical wishlist based on user feedback, and review this at monthly team meetings to prioritise development work.
  • Guidance and support materials – we work with other members of the IRUS-UK team to provide relevant help and guidance for using IRUS. User feedback helps us focus our efforts on guidance for the areas that need it most.

As we are moving to the second year of IRUS-UK, we produced a summary of the key themes from the user survey so far. This included benefits and challenges, the way people use IRUS-UK and other repository statistics, their views on the open data approach, benchmarking, and feedback on specific features of IRUS-UK. The table below demonstrates some of the ways we have responded to feedback from these surveys:

IRUS-UK response to user feedback

IRUS-UK response to user feedback

Community input to IRUS-UK is something which is highly valued, and we will continue to collect feedback from the community on a regular basis. The summary report is now available from the News page of the IRUS website.