Advantages of and Considerations for Conducting Online Focus Groups

Abstract

This case study explores the advantages and limitations of conducting focus groups online. Though virtual focus groups have long been positioned as supplemental or inferior alternatives to in-person focus groups, this case study emphasizes the flexibility, accessibility, and possibility of conducting focus groups virtually. Providing examples from virtual focus groups conducted during a qualitative research course, this case study first discusses positive aspects of online focus groups, such as easy incorporation of complementary technology and participation access for a diversity of participants. The case study then explores the challenges and limitations of virtual focus groups, including the facilitators’ technological knowledge and participants’ internet reliability. This case study ends by acknowledging that there are a range of logistical concerns that will inevitably shape online focus groups, including facilitators’ and participants’ familiarity with online platforms and dependability of technology and internet access. However, despite these challenges, there are a range of advantages, such as accommodating participants’ unique needs, offering multiple modes of participation, and providing reasonably equitable access to any media used in the interactions. Ultimately, the authors argue that like any research method, moving focus groups online does not make them inherently better or worse; it does, however, require some new considerations and strategies for implementation, which offer substantial opportunities for focus group research.

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