Survey of staff and students

My (2010) 4th year research group conducted this survey as part of their final year research project. The survey was completed in the middle of 2010 and I'm in the process of drafting an outline of an article. The 4th year students will be invited to participate in the process. This page will no longer be updated.


A survey of students within the department was conducted in order to determine the factors that could potentially affect their use of a social network as part of teaching and learning within the curriculum. These factors include access to the internet, participation in other social networks, practical skills around using social networks, and current teaching and learning practices in the department. The survey was conducted prior to participating in a social networking workshop, so that the workshop would not influence the results of the survey. The survey will be conducted using a self-developed, self-administered questionnaire that will be accompanied with a cover letter to facilitate informed consent. Appropriate questions were identified during a systematic review, as well as through the results of a previous study in this department as part of the researcher's Masters degree. In addition, the survey was jointly developed with a 4th year research group as part of their project. It was piloted on the second year physiotherapy class in this department to remove ambiguity, to ensure face- and content validity, as well as test-retest reliability, and was further refined based on feedback from the class. The results of this survey will assist the researcher in determining if a social network is an appropriate platform to facilitate reflective communities of practice as part of a blended learning strategy in the physiotherapy curriculum.


To explore the factors that may influence students' participation in a social network as part of their studies. This aim was determined following a review of the literature, as well as the researchers personal experience with social networks, and anecdotal evidence from students over time.


  1. To determine the factors influencing students' access to the internet
  2. To determine students' participation in social networks outside of the curriculum e.g. Facebook
  3. To determine the practical skills that students will need to participate effectively in the social network
  4. To determine students' learning practices that may influence their use of the social network


Research setting

The study was conducted in a university physiotherapy department at the University of the Western Cape, in 2010.

Population and sample

The population will include all physiotherapy undergraduate students who are registered in the department during 2010. The sample for the survey will include all those who complete and submit the questionnaire.

Research design

A cross-sectional, descriptive survey using mixed methods was used to obtain both quantitative and qualitative information from the students, using a self-developed, self-administered questionnaire.

Questionnaire design

This section needs to be expanded significantly, probably based in large part on Babbie & Mouton.

A self-developed questionnaire was used for the survey, as no established instrument could be found that suited the objectives of this study. The questions was based on the objectives of this project, a review of the relevant literature, and on previous studies conducted within this department.1)2)

Pilot study
A pilot study was conducted using the second year physiotherapy class as a convenient sample. The pilot study highlighted issues around the order of questions, ambiguity in some questions, and inclusion of a negative question. These issues were addressed immediately. In addition, consultation with my two supervisors confirmed face- and content validity. A test-retest reliability study was conducted on the questionnaire, which was re-administered to the 2nd year class one week after the initial pilot study.


The survey was administered by a 4th year research group to all registered students in the four undergraduate classes in 2010. The survey was conducted in a computer lab immediately prior to each classes participation in a workshop on social networking. The 2nd and 4th year classes were completed in the second term, while the 1st and 3rd year classes will be completed in the third term. This split was because of clinical placement rotations of the 3rd and 4th year classes during th year. The research group and primary researcher were present during the surveys in order to answer any questions that might arise. The researchers did not answer any questions directly from the survey, and were only present to clarify questions. The lecturers who would be facilitating the assignments within the social network were also present during the workshop, but did not participate in the surveys.



Discussion and limitations


Limitations of the study
By conducting the pilot study on an entire class in the same department that they survey was to focus on, removed them from the pool of results, meaning that only 3/4's of the undergraduate student population was surveyed. However, as limited time was a factor, it was decided to make use of the only class that was on campus at the time.

Conclusion and recommendations


Appendix I: Using Google Docs to survey

I had initially decided to use Google Docs to conduct the survey, especially since the students would already be in the lab for the workshop. However, on reflection, it seemed more appropriate to allow the 4th year research group to go through the process of conducting, capturing and analysing the results of the survey as part of their learning process. Since the use of Google Docs may still surface in this project, I've moved it here for safekeeping.

The survey will be conducted using the Form function in Google Docs. Greenhow, Robelia and Hughes (2009)3) suggest that the benefits of online surveys make them an attractive service for a variety of reasons, including the immediate availability of results. In addition, online surveys are useful because there is no risk of data capture error, the link to the survey can easily be sent to the sample, and basic statistics are automatically calculated4).

Google Docs does have some shortcomings though, as highlighted by Dekeyser and Watson (n.d.)5). Docs does not export valid HTML code, which can have negative effects on complex formatting, which is often the case with academic content. While the authors point out that Docs did not have offline support at the time of writing, this issue has been resolved with the Google Gears browser extension.6) In addition, the browser-based text editor that Docs uses can be insufficient for authors who are used to a more powerful interface. Unfortunately, web-based word processing is still in it's infancy, and it's unlikely that Docs will receive an update in this area anytime soon. Finally, there are some concerns that the content created within Docs is hosted on Google's servers, and there is no guarantee that a) the data is really private, and b) that Google will not restrict access to your content (Dekeyser & Watson, n.d.). For this reason, it is vital that the researcher makes regular backups of the results onto a local storage device.

Rowe, M. (2009). Knowledge and attitudes regarding the use of social software in a physiotherapy department. Journal of Community and Health Sciences, 4(1):1-7
Rowe, M. & Struthers, P (2009). The use of information and communication technology by physiotherapy students. South African Journal of Physiotherapy, 65(3):32-37
Dekeyser, S. & Watson, R. (n.d.). Extending Google Docs to Collaborate on Research Papers
phd_department_survey.txt · Last modified: 2011/01/15 22:05 by Michael Rowe