CAS 829 is a core course in the Strategic Communication MA program. Most students have no formal research training. CAS 829 teaches students about research, and is beneficial to them regardless of whether they plan to conduct their own research or simply want the skills to be able to assess research findings that are reported to them.
The course commences with basic training in research ethics. Then, throughout the course, students learn to use StatPlus (an add-on to Excel that facilitates various statistical analyses). Videos are recorded with voiceover so that students can see various procedures step-by-step. Because different students are working on different research projects, there are occasions when questions come up that are specific to one individual or one research team. When this happens, McAlister makes short videos to answer their questions. This is often much more practical than writing out the answer to their questions (which they would then have to translate into actions on the screen). The videos don’t take long to record and students report finding them tremendously helpful.
Throughout the course, students learn how to build online surveys using Qualtrics. They are specifically required to use a variety of different questions, including scale questions. In the teaching videos, they are shown how to check their survey setup to ensure that their survey items will display properly on mobile devices. Novice researchers often do not consider when, where, and how their participants might engage with a survey. So McAlister teaches students to double check how their survey items might look for someone using a smartphone vs a tablet vs a laptop.
“Many years ago, I learned to always provide written copies of assignment instructions,” McAlister said. “I was told that some students struggle with verbal instructions that aren’t accompanied by written instructions (e.g., if they are hard of hearing or if English is not their first language). So I always strive to provide information in a variety of formats. I know there’s debate these days about whether or not there’s really a difference between ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ learners. Even if the distinction is not as pronounced as folks once thought, I still choose to present information in various formats wherever possible.”
Dr. Anna McAlister, faculty