Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

More on Two-Person Interviews (TPIs)

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , ,

For a description (Part 1) of Dr. David Morgan’s TPIs, please refer to my previous blog post.

The effects of structure on the TPI

The degree of structure you use in your interviews will affect the data you glean. Highly structured TPIs suggest greater interaction with the participants and the interviewer. The greater the structure the more the interviewers controls the questions and answers. Highly structured interviews allow a researcher to dig into issues in depth and in great detail. In a case in which the interviewer questions each TPI participant individually, the participants may build upon each other’s responses, but still answer the questions separately. This is sometimes referred to as a serial interview.

High-structure TPIs Low-structure TPIs

High Structure


Low Structure



On the other end of the continuum, a low-structured or unstructured TPI (which, I believe, is the intent of Morgan’s TPI method) will permit greater interaction between the participants themselves. In a low-structure TPI, the interviewer stimulates conversation through the asking of questions or by setting up tasks. Less structured interviews are more exploratory in nature. And, a researcher using an unstructured TPI approach will have more opportunity to observe interactions between the two participants.

Homogeneity vs. heterogeneity

This refers to the similarities and/or familiarity of the participants to each other. For example, are they students in the same program? Are they from the same country?

According to Morgan, focus groups usually involve homogenous groups. But, it is possible to do either with TPIs. In one-person interviews (OPIs), the rapport between the interviewer and the participant is very important. In focus groups and TPIs, the rapport between the participants is important. As this technique is yet still very un-researched, the impact upon the quality and kind of observational data derived from homogenous vs. heterogeneous participants is yet unknown. I suspect that the quality of such data is also very much related to the kind of study and the kind of data sought by the researcher.

The TPI setting

Since the goal of a TPI is to encourage conversation, the interviewers will place the participants into a comfortable arrangement in which they can face each other just as they would in a normal conversation. In a face-to-face TPI, this might mean that the participants are sitting somewhat adjacent to each other. The interviewer will place herself somewhat apart from the conversants. Of course, this will be dictated by cultural patterns of appropriate proximity.

But, how can one achieve this online? Using video-conferencing technology, I would recommend that the interviewer ask the participants to use their video cameras and any of the other tools available (instant messaging, etc.). Once the main questions have been asked or the activity is introduced, the interviewer can turn off her camera. In some cases, she can make her camera less prominent. In a case in which the activity might be to use a whiteboard or brainstorming software, the interviewer can allow the participants to take control.

Conversation starters

In many face-to-face situations such as classrooms or workshops, facilitators use various ice-breaker techniques. How can this be done online? Well, whenever I chat with someone in a different province or country, I am curious about their weather, time zone, seasons, etc. Morgan recommends that conversation starters are 1) easy to answer, 2) interesting to both parties, and 3) something on which they want to hear someone else’s opinion/experience. If the conversation starter is somewhat removed, then the interviewer must find a way to bring the conversation back to the topic of the interview.

For a description of Dr. David Morgan’s TPIs, please refer to my previous blog post.

Mobile Learning: Is the FRAME Model still current?

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning · Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was asked to do a short video interview for a group of master’s students. This was one of the questions:

Five years has passed since you developed the FRAME Model. In that time there has been an explosion in the number and type of mobile learning devices available to instructors and learners. Is the FRAME Model still current?

That is a very good question, the answer to which helps me clarify the nature of the FRAME model.

The acronym comes from a rather verbose title: Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education. In my master’s thesis, I explain why I selected these words. But, I will focus on the meaning of the model here.

Basically the model is a heuristic; that is, it is a tool, like a lens, that allows someone to critically examine a given phenomenon. What I realized shortly after defending my master’s thesis is that the model can apply to all kinds of technology. (It would need a new name: FRATE?)

The FRAME Model is a Venn diagram composed of three overlapping circles:

Diagram: The FRAME Model

The circles represent the characteristics of the device, the learner, and the social. The Device Aspect (D) takes into consideration the physical characteristics, input and output capabilities, file storage & retrieval, processor speed, and error rates. If using this model for other technologies, other characteristics might come into play. The Learner Aspect (L) focuses on the characteristics of an individual such as prior knowledge, personal history, memory, emotions, learning styles (if you subscribe to a belief in learning styles), and ability to transfer skills and knowledge from context to context. The Social Aspect (S) takes into consideration processes of conversation and cooperation, the sharing of signs and symbols, as well as social and cultural beliefs and values.

When these aspects overlap each other, we start to see interesting developments. As a learner comes into contact with a device as per the Device Usability Intersection (DL), we can consider elements like portability, information availability, psychological comfort, and satisfaction with aesthetics and functionality. The Social Technology Intersection (DS) we consider how people, as a collection, interact with technology. So, we can consider the means of networking, connectivity amongst systems, and collaboration tools. Finally, with the Interaction Learning Intersection (LS), what comes into view is how an individual is influenced by and influences the collective. This is where we can consider constructivist and constructionist ideas such as type of interaction, situated cognition, and learning communities.

At the centre of the model, the aspects and intersections inform us of the nature of the learning context. This is the point at which we can consider mediation, information access and selection, and knowledge navigation. One of the questions for the interview asked if the FRAME Model was complementary to George Siemens theory of Connectivism. Whilst it has been a couple of years since I read his book, Knowing Knowledge, I would say that it is in alignment. In fact, the FRAME Model is in alignment with many other theories. I have never suggested that it should supersede or replace other models. But, rather, as I mentioned earlier, it is one of many tools (heuristics) that we can use to better understand a given learning situation.

Now, in answer to the question above: Yes, the FRAME Model is still current. It can be applied to virtually any kind of learning technology—not just mobile technology. And, it can be applied to formal and informal learning. With some creativity, it can be applied to non-learning situations.

The second question to which I will respond this morning is:

The year 2011 introduced a number of innovative mobile devices into the marketplace. Designers have addressed some previous limitations such as small screen size. With these device upgrades, do you anticipate these changes will enhance issues related to cognition, learning potential or collaborative learning?

Like Mark Bullen (BCIT, Canada) and Chris Jones (Open University, UK), I do not think that these enhancements will change cognition or the fundamental learning capacity of learners—in contrast to what Mark Prensky and Don Tapiscott might contend. But, I do think that there is some truth to the task-artifact cycle (Carroll et. al., 1991). People create technology to fulfill a certain need. The technology changes how people work—sometimes altering the need itself. The technology is updated. The need is altered. The technology is updated. Yes, that is greatly simplified. But, as technology enhances our “cognition”, we behave differently. We modify our technology . . . in an ongoing cycle. The plasticity of the underlying human learning capacity (adaptive ability) allows this kind of interaction. But, I stop at the point where people might suggest that the underlying human adaptive capacity changes. I don’t think there is evidence for that.

Some references to the FRAME model:

Ally, M., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M., Kenny, R. F., & Park, C. (2009). Developing a Community of Inquiry in a Mobile Learning Context. Learning and Technology: A Capital Idea! Retrieved from

Batista, S. C. F., Behar, P. A., & Passerino, L. M. (2010). M-Learning in Mathematics: mapping requirements. Interactive Computer Aided Learning (ICL). Hasselt, Belgi9um: Kassel University Press.Retrieved from

Crescente, M. L., & Lee, D. (2011). Critical issues of m-learning: design models, adoption, processes, and future trends. Journal of the Chinese Institute of Industrial Engineers, 28(2), 111-123. Retrieved from

JISC InfoNet. (2011). Emerging Practice in a Digital Age (Mobile Learning Info Kit) (pp. 1-65). Retrieved from (Or:

Hamdeh, M. A., & Hamdan, A. (2010). Using analytical hierarchy process tomeasure critical success factors of m-learning. European,Mediterranean & Middle Eastern Conference on Information Systems (EMCIS, April 12-13). Abu Dhabi, UAE. Retrieved from Refereed Papers/C33.pdf

Issa, G. F., Hussain, S. M., & Al-Bahadili, H. (n.d.). A framework for building an interactive satellite TV based m-learning environment (document in preparation). International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET). Retrieved from

Kenny, R. F., Van Neste-Kenny, J. M. C., Park, C. L., Burton, P. A., & Meiers, J. (2009). Mobile Learning in Nursing Practice Education: Applying Koole’s FRAME Model. Journal of Distance Education. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2006). The Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (Frame) Model: An Evaluation of Mobile Devices for Distance Education. Unpublished Thesis: Athabasca University. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2009a). Chapter 2: A Model for Framing Mobile Learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training (Vol. 1, pp. 25-47). Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press. Free download:

Koole, M. (2009b). Workshop: Go Mobile! Advantages, Issues, and Examples of Mobile Technologies in Distance Education. 8th Annual International MADLaT Conference (Vol. Winnipeg, ). Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2010). Mobile learning: Do the benefits justify the cost and time? New Era Teaching and Learning (Vol. Online). Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved from

Koole, M., Letkemen McQuilkin, J., & Ally, M. (2010). Mobile Learning in Distance Education: Utility or Futility. JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION. Retrieved from

Koole, M., Waard, I. de, & Elsayed Meawad, F. (2010). Mobile Learning: Solutions & Challenges. Cider Sessions (Vol. Online). The Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. Retrieved from

Kumar, A., Tweari, A., Shroff, G., Chittamuru, D., Kam, M., & CAnny, J. (n.d.). An Exploratory Study of Unsupervised Mobile Learning in Rural India. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 743-752). Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from

Kumar, L. S., Biplab, J., Aggarwal, A. K., & Kannan, S. (2011). Mobile Device Intervention for Student Support Services in Distance Education Context – FRAME Model Perspective. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2. Retrieved from

Mishra, S. (2009). Mobile technologies in open schools (p. 97). Report by the Commonwealth of Learning.Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from

Palmer, R., & Dodson, L. (2011). Distance Learning in the Cloud: Using 3G Enabled Mobile Computing to Support Rural Medical Education. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET), 7(1), 106-116. Retrieved from

Pettersson, O., Svensson, M., Gil, D., Andersson, J., & Milrad, M. (2010). On the role of software process modeling in software ecosystem design. Technology, (August), 103-110. ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1842752.1842778

Serrano-Santoyo, A., & Organista-Sandoval, J. (2010). Challenges and opportunities to support learning with mobile devices. MexIHC 2010, 3rd Mexican Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction (November 8-10, 2010). San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Retrieved from

Stockwell, G. (2010). Using mobile phones for vocabulary activities: Examining the effect of the platform. Language Learning & Technology, 14(2), 95-110. Retrieved from

Whalley, W. B., France, D., Park, J. R., Welsh, K., & Favis-Mortlock, D. (2011). Flexible personal learning environments developed with netbook computers to enhance learning in fieldwork learning spaces. The PLE Conference 2011 (10th – 12th July) (pp. 1-13). Southampton, UK: Web Science Trust. Retrieved from

Other uses & mentions of the FRAME model:

David Morgan’s Two-Person Interviews (TPIs)

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , , , , ,

Presentation at Thinking Qualitatively Workshop Series offered through the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology. (June 22, 2011)

At first glance, this idea does not seem altogether that new. Yet, to my knowledge, no one other than Dr. David Morgan, a sociologist at Portland State University [oops! I thought he was from the U of A!] has conceptualized and named this form of interview format. Dr. Morgan acknowledged that other authors have mentioned “micro groups” and “mini-groups”, but there is not much in the literature. Please post a comment if you have seen any literature about this kind of interview.

To understand it, I will first outline the similarities and differences with regular one-person interviews and focus groups. This will be grossly simplified, but it allows a point of departure for an examination of TPIs.

One-person interviews

Diagram: one-person interview

In a conventional one-to-one interview, the interviewer communicates with a participant.

Focus group

Diagram: focus group

In a focus group, the interviewer facilitates a conversation. But, the participants then carry on, sometimes forgetting about the presence of the interviewer. Focus groups allow a researcher to accomplish at least two things: 1) ask questions, and 2) observe interactions among focus group members.

Two-person interviews (TPIs)

Diagram: Two-person interview

TPIs represent a hybrid of the focus group configuration. Naturally, the number of participants is more limited which reduces the logistics problems of gathering four to six people (or more) together for a meeting. TPIs also allow the interviewer to observe the interactions between the two participants. As such, one of the main goals is to encourage a conversation between the two participants.

According to his presentation, each time you add another person to the interview setting, you add additional complexity. In a dyadic situation, the participants exchange views bi-directionally. If a researcher adds an additional conversant (triad), there is a possibility for three separate conversations. The conversation can split.

Dr. Morgan illustrated how time is (possibly) shared within the three configurations above:

Interview time Configuration Time Data
1 hour session One-person 1 hour for the participant Questions answered; one perspectiveObservation of individual only
1 hour session TPI 30 minutes each Questions answered; two possible perspectivesObservation of interaction
1 hour session Focus group (6 people) 10 minutes each Questions answered; six possible perspectivesObservation of interaction


Next, I will write about some of the interesting issues that Dr. Morgan mentioned including: heterogeneous groups, homogeneous groups, under- and over-disclosure, interview structure, relationships and rapport, and backchannels. And, I will discuss how this might help my phenomenographic study.

See more on TPIs:

Conducting interviews with the not-so-disembodied

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , ,

Online Interviewing
James, N., & Busher, H. (2009). Online interviewing. See:

I finished this book yesterday at my favourite coffee shop. Lo and behold, I had neither computer nor paper to jot down my notes. So, I pulled out my HTC TYTN II and hand-wrote some notes [I have not yet succumbed to the i-Revolution of the evil geniuses at Apple]. I sometimes carry a little fold-out Bluetooth keyboard and type notes in mobile Word, but alas I was completely unprepared.

James and Busher’s (J&B’s) book did not treat interviews in the same ways as Olson and Fontanas & Prokos did. There were some similar themes regarding ethics and the balance of power between the interviewer and the participants. And, J&B discussed the importance of the researcher understanding his/her ontological and epistemological stance. But, the main focus of this book, in my opinion, on the nature of the online environment and how it affects the construction and understanding of discourse in online interviewing. As such, the book is ideal for those of us who are studying online identity formation and maintenance. Including this book amongst my readings of interview methods was a good way to round out my investigation.

The authors regularly use the word disembodied in referring to the human experience online. The word crept into much of their text in each chapter possibly indicating their own private orientation towards online interaction. For example, J&B write:

This chapter [four] therefore discusses how knowledge is constructed in a disembodied, anonymous and textual environment . . . (p. 43)

Further, the body itself is discussed:

The centrality of the body plays a critical part in developing and maintaining social encounters. It influences the ways in which researchers and participants construct their identities and those of the other (Giddens, 1991) and how they assert their agency to make sense of the ‘territory’ (social space) of the social interaction in the face-to-face encounter. (p. 32)

I do not disagree with the importance of the body as we are all physical beings “thrown” into a physical world. Interaction within the physical world shapes how we understand life. However, I grow concerned when social scientists suggest that the ways humans interact online is fundamentally different from how they interact in other environments. Interaction in any environment is mediated—in a face-to-face milieu, this might be through light and sound waves. Mediation will affect the cues people perceive and their sense of time and space (p. 10). Sense of time and space will alter how they interact: what people say, how they say it, and why they say it—when, where . . . The meanings of interaction will shift for the actors as they send and receive cues through different times and spaces. These factors are of much interest to qualitative researchers (p. 23).

So, normally, I would take the repetition of the word disembodiment as a warning sign. Gladly, I found that the authors also offer different perspectives of the online experience:

. . . if researchers are to understand life online, they have to understand that participants’ experiences are connected and shaped by cultural and social elements that are both real and virtual, public and private and online and offline. (p. 11)

Some online researchers have argued that to understand life online you need to understand the broader context because ‘being online and being offline are intersecting and interweaving experiences’ that are influenced and shaped by cultural and social elements (Rybas and Gajjala, 2007 cited in J&B, 2009, p. 34). Identity is fluid and potentially multiple on the Internet, but people similarly engage in these practices in other areas of their lives and did so prior to the existence of the Internet. In other words there is a ‘connected space’ in which individuals exist online and offline simultaneously (Kendall, 1999, p. 6 cited in J&B, 2009, p. 34).

Why is it important to avoid (or acknowledge) the online-interaction-is-disembodied-bandwagon? Because it has significant underlying implications for the way researchers and practitioners shape their online research and online learning environments. By recognizing that the humans-behind-the-screen are actual beings with continuous identities rooted in physical, cultural, and social environments, we can begin to understand why they might react to given situations the way they do. (Note: I do not suggest that we can ever fully understand the intentionality of others.) J&B warn researchers about the “false notion of sameness”, the idea that because people share time and space online they also share values and understanding (p. 47).

. . . participants are likely to assign different valences (strengths) of power to each other, possibly incorrectly. This is because the valence they assign will depend on the cultures from which they come, not the culture in which the others are located. (p. 45)

Further, (and I love the terminology):


But, one should not forget that the lived reality of a person is also supplemented by ‘there and then’. Everyone carries with him/her a physical, cultural, and social history.

A related, but equally important and oft-abused word is fragmented. The disembodied folks often also suggest that people interacting online have fragmented identities:

The identities that emerge from these interactions—fragmented, complex, diffracted through the lenses of technology, culture and new technocultural formations—seem to be . . . more visible as the critters we ourselves are in the process of becoming, here at the close of the mechanical age. (Stone, 1996, p. 36 cited in J&B, 2009, p.72)

Fragmentation is a notion that I would also flag as problematic. The fragmentation is really only from the perspective of an audience for a given performance—not that of the actual individual typing on his/her keyboard. As I write this, I assure you, I have a very integrated sense of identity; my whole history is at my disposal. Just because I don’t share all of my history does not mean I am in any way fragmented. But, I do acknowledge that your computer monitor might show me as somehow diffracted.

Thankfully, J&B offer alternative views from that of Stone (1996, above). In referring to Kendall (1999), they indicate that identity is “stable and unified” and that “This stability is constructed through the ongoing dialogues and discourses emerging online” (p. 73). And, that whilst people can create different online personas, they can and do integrate these personas into their unified selves. In my view, this suggests support for a constructionist perspective of how online and offline presentations of self integrate and influence each other in a constant movement towards becoming.

How is this relevant to interviewing methodologies?

It is relevant because it suggests that there is authenticity in data collected through online interviews (synchronous and asynchronous). The concern we have with demonstrating the validity/authenticity/truthfulness of this form of data collection is similar to the validity of interview data collected in face-to-face interviews”

Individuals do not leave the body, and all its material inequalities behind when they enter cyberspace (O’Connor and Madge, 2003 referred to in J&B, 2009, p. 78).

Oh, and this is an interesting comment (great quotes in this book):

. . . we may underestimate the presence of the body in electronic communication, and over estimate the power of the body to facilitate the fact-to-face situation (Seymore, 2001, p. 162, cited in J&B, 2009, p 108).

So what have I learned?

Similar rules-of-thumb apply to both online and offline interviewing:

So, why am I still grinding on about interview methods?

These were my main concerns prompting my investigation about interview methods:

To what extend would I contaminate the interviews by expressing opinions?

Do I want pre-reflective responses?
(See p. 26)