This section links the research problem to this study’s findings by detailing the steps taken to gather and analyze data that traced the participants’ composition process. This goal was met by triangulating the data, and ultimately, visually displaying a rich, descriptive narrative that highlighted the important decisions made by experienced university educators who composed multimodal texts. Thus, this sections set the stage for reporting the narrative of the participants’ multimodal composition process by discussing how this study was conducted and the rationale behind these methods.
Rationale for a Qualitative Approach
This study used a qualitative methodological approach with the purpose of investigating an emerging phenomenon in its natural environment. Following the advice of Miles and Huberman (1994), this study employed an approach that allowed for a way to work out of the problem posed by this research. In this case, an approach flexible enough to work through the emerging problem of understanding how university educators familiar with composing print-based curriculum transitioned to composing digital multimodal material. The capacity of a qualitative methodology to provide such flexibility was fitting for an exploration of a new and complex area of study (Creswell, 2007; MacNealy, 1999; Miles & Huberrman, 1994). As elaborated and illustrated in this section, this qualitative approach consisted of multiple techniques that were adjusted as the investigation progressed, and of analytical tools that I adapted to capture a multimodal process.
Aside from addressing the emerging aspect of the phenomenon under study, a qualitative approach allowed me to observe the phenomenon in its natural environment (Cresswell, 2007). Since participants were investigated while at their familiar text composition environments, this study’s methodological approach provided detailed observations that incorporated the context of experienced university educators who adopted new teaching practices. The environment within which university educators composed digital multimodal texts was part of the experience of teaching, and therefore an important context for understanding digital multimodal text production. A qualitative research approach was sensitive enough to this study’s consideration of the university educators’ composing environments.
Rationale for a Case Study Approach
The rarity of this emerging phenomenon, the length of time for which it was studied, and the need for in-depth data justified treating the qualitative methodology as a single case study. Firstly, a single case study allowed this study “to observe and analyze a phenomenon previously inaccessible to scientific investigation” (Yin, 2009, p. 42). The timeframe in which this study took place was a rare moment in the history of educational research. In recent years, institutions of higher education have made multimedia-authoring technologies readily accessible to university educators by providing them with commercial computers. Because access to multimedia authoring tools had, until the turn of the century, been limited to educational technology instructors, writing and education researchers had but limited opportunities to study how university educators compose these texts, namely those who actually engage students with these new teaching material. The change in access to such tools provided a rare opportunity to investigate how digital teaching materials were produced for educational purposes, not by educational technology specialists but by those who were directly involved in using such material in educational environments.
Secondly, a single case study allowed the gathering data over a period of time. The data gathered aggregated information about the phenomenon of university educators’ digital multimodal text production process over the period of fifteen weeks. A single case study allowed data gathering to occur over such a substantive period of time, a timeframe that captured various moments of the digital multimodal text composition process. A single case study allowed for aggregating multiple moments in the text production process, an approved treatment that developed a greater amount of information about the process as a whole.
Lastly, a case study approach allowed for data to be gathered not just over time but also in depth. As with similar methodological approaches used to research university educators’ work with digital multimodal texts, such as Jewitt, Moss, and Cardini (2007), this research used a case study tapproach to capture in-depth detailed information. Jewitt et al. (2007) identified this as an important activity in their study of how educators used interactive whiteboard technology to produce digital multimodal texts. Their study concluded with a call for researchers to further gather in-depth information about university educators engaged in the act of composing potential “new designs of learning” (p.316). A case study approach to a qualitative methodology met this need by capturing participants engaging in digital multimodal text composing activities with greater clarity.