Phenomenology: The Experiences of Blended Students in the Military at ______Base

Phenomenology: The Experiences of Blended Students in the Military at ______Base

This is a hypothetical research topic and interview; no actual research took place.  For this hypothetical study, I used myself as the interviewee since I am a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy Blended Course and meet the criteria as a candidate for this study.  If other graduates were interviewed, I would obtain written consent from each person involved in the interview.  This assignment was done with only one person and not the full sample listed below that a real study might be done on.  The interview was done in the privacy of my own home.  I did not record the interview but typed up the answers as I responded to each question.  Other interviews would be recorded and transcribed.  The following information is how a real study might be done, if not for this assignment only.  The last section is the responses to the interview questions (Oestmann, 2017).

Phenomenological Study Information

Phenomenology is approach selected for this study.  Phenomenological studies assume an individual’s reality is shaped by the meaning he/she derives from their experiences of a phenomenom (Argosy University, 2017).  Creswell (2014) supports this assumption by pointing out that phenomenology attempts “to build the essence of experiences from participants” (p. 66).  From these experiences, researchers seek to find themes without placing importance on any one theme more than another.  Throughout the process, researchers sort through the themes to find statements relevant to the phenomena by eliminating the irrelevant ones (Argosy University, 2017).  Coding is a key component in identifying themes and thematic frameworks.  Researchers must be wary of their presence in the process of the study as it could influence the subjects either intentionally or unintentionally.  Researchers should consider the use of reflexivity to mitigate their undue influence on the study in order to insure the integrity and validity of the data (Creswell, 2012; Medved & Turner, 2011).

The phenomenon being studied is lived experiences of students in a blended learning program at the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy.  Many factors affect students at the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA).  Students must establish their work, home, and academic life balance.  SEA students are geographically disbursed during the distance-learning phase, often times deployed on ships or in locations with limited connectivity.  Studying how these factors affect student learning outcomes might help predict future student success and effect change in our organization.

Research Question

What are the experiences of students in a blended learning program when they participated in the in-residence phase?

Sample

Recent graduates of the SEA would be the subjects of this research.  Creswell (2012) says, “Criterion sampling works well when all individuals studied represent people who have experienced the phenomenon” (p. 155).  With this in mind, criterion sampling best fits this study since it seeks to understand the learning experiences of students who attended the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy’s blended course.  Recent SEA graduates would be provided an overview of the study and invited to participate in the interview process.  A random sample of 12-15 students from will be selected for the interviews.

Interview Process

Interviews and Data Collection

The interviews would be one-on-one and semi-structured to allow the researcher to probe the participant for more detailed information as the interview progresses.  Participant interviews will be conducted either in person or video teleconference.  Interviews should take approximately 30 minutes.  Each participant will be assigned a coded identifier (i.e., Participant 1 or P1) to be used in lieu of personal to insure privacy and confidentiality.  Participants can withdraw from the study at any time without reprisal or retribution.

Textual data would be collected using a video recorder, or screen capture software if conducted over video teleconference, for transcription later.  Transcripts and video will be reviewed so all information, both verbal and non-verbal, is captured from the interviews.  A secure server will store all the recordings and transcripts.  The collected data be analyzed using NVIVO software to assist with identifying themes among the interviewee answers (Oestmann, 2017).

Interview Questions

Closed Ended:

1. How long have you served in the military?

2. How long have you served in your current paygrade/rank?

Open Ended:

3.      How would you describe your story about your primary methods of learning since joining the service?

4.      How would you describe your journey regarding your primary methods of learning in your personal educational pursuits outside of the military?

5.      Tell me about your experience during the distance-learning phase at the SEA. What was most challenging? Rewarding? Other parts of the experience?

6.      Tell me about your experience during the in-residence phase at the SEA. What was most challenging? Rewarding? Other parts of the experience?

7.      In what ways did your distance-learning experience affect your in-residence experience? What was your experience like and how did it help you? Hider you?

8.      How did your educational background contribute to your experience at the SEA? What parts of your educational experience were contributing factors to help you? Hinder you?

9.      Tell me how you feel about these experiences and how this had this effect?

10.  Tell your story from start to finish in the program and what did you wish you knew starting? What tips and advice would you give to a student about to begin his/her experience at the SEA?  Why?

Semi-structured probing questions will be used along the way such as “You mentioned ________, can you tell me more about this” and “You talked about ___________, describe that experience in as much detail as possible” or “Can you elaborate on the point you just made”?

Responses to Interview Questions

Closed Ended:

1.      How long have you served in the military?  Twenty-six years as of March 11, 2017.

2.      How long have you served in your current paygrade/rank?  Two years.

Open Ended:

3.       How would you describe your primary methods of learning since joining the service?  My education since joining the Navy has been a mix of classroom and online learning.  Most of my classroom learning experiences have been very formal and structured.  There was very little room for discussion.  It seemed to focus mostly on passing information about the subject of the training.  Online learning seems to focus on general military training that does not require a classroom.  It tends to be repetitive and boring.  I often advance through the slides and try to test out without really reading the material at all.

4.      How would you describe your primary methods of learning in your personal educational pursuits outside of the military?  My personal education has also been a mix of classroom and online learning.  I started going to college in a traditional setting.  I struggled to focus on my educational goals, so I joined the Navy hoping to get a little more focused.  After joining the Navy, I tried to continue with college in a traditional classroom setting but never really enjoyed it.  It was not until I transferred schools into an online program that I truly started to enjoy learning.  The flexibility and autonomy that come with an online program appeals to me.  At that point, I decided to pursue most of my college education in an online setting.

5.      How would you describe your experience during the distance-learning phase at the SEA?  The distance-learning phase at the SEA seemed pretty typical compared to most of my online learning experiences.  We had recorded video lectures and reading assignments.  We also had discussion board posts and essays.  I felt pretty confident going into the course since I recently finished my master’s degree.  I was surprised and a little frustrated with the format the SEA uses for writing essays.  It did not make sense and I felt that I was already an accomplished writer who did not need the rigid structure that the SEA employs.  I found out quickly the importance of the format, three-part communications, was to the SEA.  It came when my FA [faculty advisor] contacted me and discussed my first essay.  I received some pretty harsh feedback that focused mostly on my poor use of three-part communications.  It was pretty frustrating.  I mean, I know how to write.  I have three degrees that prove it and this guy is telling me I’m not doing it right?  Who does he think he’s talking to?  That’s when I realized my ego was getting in the way.  I decided to go ahead and follow his feedback and advice.  Sure enough, my next essay was a homerun.  From that point forward, my distance-learning experience was pretty positive.

6.      How would you describe your experience during the in-residence phase at the SEA?  It was pretty good overall.  My biggest complaint was the weather.  I flew from Hawaii to Newport in late February/early March and it was still cold.  It even snowed on us once.  I was not ready for that.  The learning experience was pretty good too.  The SEA still had the six-week residence course running at the time.  The current class had been active for a few weeks.  The SEA tried to integrate us with them during some of the lectures, but we often felt like outsiders.  It felt like we were an afterthought.  As a group, we seemed to gel fairly quickly in the group room.  However, we did not interact much after hours and this seems to have limited our bond a little bit.  The SEA has a reputation for building lasting relationships between students in the same class.  We just did not seem to build those relationships.  I only keep in touch with one or two of my fellow classmates.  In general, my experience was so good, that I decided to jump at the chance to come back and serve as a faculty advisor.

7.      How did your distance-learning experience affect your in-residence experience?  Distance-learning helped me get the hang of the basic communication skills I needed for the in-residence phase.  It also let me establish some basic knowledge about my classmates to help me connect with them when we met in person.  I am rather introverted, and I sometimes have difficulty making small talk or meeting new people.  Getting to know my classmates online helped to ease that tension I feel when meeting new people.

8.      How did your educational background contribute to your experience at the SEA?  I think my educational background really helped me with my SEA experience.  I enjoyed completing my bachelor’s degree online so much that I decided to make online learning the focus of my master’s degree.  The residency experience was OK.

9.      Why do you feel it had this effect?  The online experience was great because I was familiar with the format.  Like I said before, we felt a little bit like outsiders and that was discouraging.

10.  What advice would you give to a student about to begin his/her experience at the SEA?  Why?  First, take the SEA seriously.  It is not just another training course.  The SEA is a rigorous educational experience.  Set aside time to work on your assignments.  You cannot wing it.  Get yourself an academic mentor, someone who completed the blended course.  He/she can help you understand some of the intricacies of distance-learning and the three-part communications format used by the SEA.  Set aside your ego and embrace the experience.  Do not assume you have all the answers just because you have a college degree.  Finally, network and make friends.  You never know when you might need help from a Chief on the other side of the globe.

Recommendations

Future research on this topic could try and isolate the experiences from the distance-learning phase and in-residence phase.  Also, research could focus on how either military or civilian educational background impacts the learner’s experience.  Since many of the graduates travel back to their parent commands and units immediately following graduation, researchers should establish a video teleconferencing routine for the interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

References

Argosy University. (2017). Module 3: Phenomenology. Methods & Analysis of Qualitative Research – R7035-A A02.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches (3 ed.). [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781412995771

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Medved, C. E., & Turner, L. H. (2011). Qualitative Research: Practices and Practicing Reflexvity. Women & Language, 34(2), 109-113.

Oestmann, J. (2017). Module 3: Phenomenology. Methods & Analysis of Qualitative Research R7035-A A02.


Comments are closed.