#WeAreOLC: Phenomenological Research with Storytelling


Sherri Restauri, Coastal Carolina University (OLC Accelerate 2019 Conference Co-Chair)

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Online Teaching & Learning Research

With the idea of stories being a connecting element throughout all of our conference activities, we are creating a variety of opportunities for you to share your story and to hear the stories of others. We’re calling this initiative #WeAreOLC. As the #WeAreOLC initiative unfolds, you will see a series of blog posts focused on how we (the members of the steering committee) are using storytelling to create a memorable and impactful 25th Anniversary experience. See all #WeAreOLC blog posts.

With over 500 individual sessions coming up–both those heavy on data and analytics (some of my personal favorites!) and sharing of lessons learned from our educational practices, OLC Accelerate in our 25th year has something to offer everyone, across the full gamut of research-heavy and research-lite style discourse, discussions, and knowledge-sharing…including storytelling opportunities.

In a recent co-authored blog post, Research is for Everyone!, two colleagues and I wrote about the many facets of research that an attendee may find when on-site or attending as a virtual conference member for OLC Accelerate this year (check it out when you’ve finished this one!). Over the last 20+ years of serving in the ever-evolving field known Digital and Online Learning, it’s become more clear that research, much like our technological and pedagogical tools, and even the terminology we use to describe the modalities and technologies we teach in, is evolving. It has also been the case that the types of research receiving the most acknowledgement, attention, and support within the academic and peer-reviewed communities, as well as those typically considered to be most valuable and useful in decision-making, are evolving.

Oftentimes, when attending OLC conferences and similar conferences across the nation focused on improving educational methodology, programmatic support, and digital and accessible learning initiatives, I’ve walked away learning the most from one-on-ones; shared, lived experiences, and individual case outcomes from individual faculty, instructional designers, and leaders in their disciplines who, like myself, found themselves mining hordes of data–and wanting to share the knowledge for the good of the collective group. Quantitative data does and will always have its place! Yet diving into qualitative areas with vast collections of transcripted interviews, survey responses, and otherwise exploring what is now termed our collective Community of Inquiry yields data in a form that is different from what statistical analyses can reveal – data based on experience – resulting in a humanizing outcome to assess the meaning and impact of our studies. 

Likewise, one of the facets that I’ve found most valuable in attending, presenting at, and serving in the organization for the OLC Accelerate conferences is to take a deeper dive into and more fully explore the value of including the researcher, with their own experiences and expertise, in the research through anecdotal and investigative methods versus our rigorous grad school reminders to always disconnect ourselves from any relationship to our data and experiments due to research protocol. Storytelling at its finest, in fact, can be found in many forms of qualitative research, including phenomenological studies–a term not oftentimes seen but one in which a focus on lived experiences, communities of inquiry, and real-life, day-to-day “how I made this work” details from a specific faculty member or student may provide remarkable insight that otherwise we may miss from merely reviewing  trends, popular tool adoption rates, and indicators of statistical significance alone. 

Piqued your interest yet? Here is just a sampling of qualitative studies with storytelling elements that will be featured at OLC Accelerate: 

Come join us at OLC Accelerate in Orlando (register with early bird discount until September 25th), attend these and other incredible sessions, learn more about a wide range of research, real-world experiences, and inquiry-based learning, and collaborate with colleagues conducting exciting qualitative research across the span of digital and open learning today. 









We know that we would not be where we are today were it not for your contributions over the last 25 years. With this in mind, we first invite you to share your own OLC narrativesYou can join in our quest to story the past (so that we can better prepare for the future) by submitting one or more of the following to this GOOGLE FORM:

Share a visual memory

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we encourage you to help us collect memories from the past. Scour your archives for photos, videos, documents, or other resources that tell a story. We’ll share them with the OLC community through our social media channels as our way of saying “thanks for being a part of the OLC”.(Remember, we’re hoping to build a history of the OLC for the last 25 years)

Share your story

We want to highlight you and your work or contributions to making OLC what it is today. Create a blog post, a twitter post, etc. that we can share with the other members of our community. Here are a few prompts to get you started.

    • How did you first get involved with the OLC?
    • 25 years (then and now): What kinds of technology were you using 25 years ago and what technology do you engage with now?
    • What is one of your favorite OLC experiences?
    • Who composes your OLC community (i.e. the people you have met along the way and always enjoy seeing)? Tell a story that shares about your relationship.
    • How do you support inclusion, diversity, equity, and advocacy in your teaching and learning and how has this evolved in the past 25 years?

We hope that you join us by following along with the series, as we articulate our shared commitment to a more inclusive, equitable, and humanizing OLC through engaging in individual and collective storytelling. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and for being an important part of our community. #WeAreOLC.

Groenewald, T. (2004). A phenomenological research design illustrated. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 3(1), 42-55

Kupers, W., Mantere, S., & Statler, M. (2013). Strategy as storytelling: A phenomenological collaboration. Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(1), 83-100

Sherri Restauri, Coastal Carolina University (OLC Accelerate 2019 Conference Co-Chair)

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