Here is the methodology from my final pre-proposal submitted in May 2010. I am posting it now, since the blog posts over the next three weeks will all be on my dissertation methods.

The nature of this study–examining an online communication method–is one of social acts. Using a social phenomenological inquiry to examine this subject as an intrinsic case study model, this study will critically examine and apply an embedded analysis on the use of the OVC in the AOC to determine the participant-perceived social presence level, the characteristics that lead to that perception, how participants interact through this method, and the features that allow or invoke that interaction. “A phenomenological study describes the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept or the phenomenon” (Creswell, 1998). In this type of study, researchers search for the essence of the phenomenon and the meaning of the experience for participants.

This intrinsic case study model, which focuses on one case due to its genuine or distinctive nature, is based on the unique characteristics of this communication form. I will examine the OVC over two semesters in General Principles of Multimedia Writing, an asynchronous online course in which students use the OVC to interact with both the instructor and fellow-classmates. For the purposes of this methodology, the intrinsic case refers to the OVC in a specific rhetorical situation. The embedded analysis, which focuses on a specific aspect of a case, will examine the level of social presence created by the OVC. It will collect information through a series of mixed data gathering methods, including online surveys, direct interviews, and content analysis, which will produce both quantitative and qualitative data.

Student Surveys
I will gather information from student surveys to determine their perception of interpersonal communication via online video, of the importance and existence of social presence in the asynchronous online classroom, and of their experiences with the online video conversation. I leave open the possibility of student interviews, which would take place only after the semester has ended and grades have been submitted.

Instructor Interviews
Using the telephone, Skype, IM, or Viddler, I will conduct interviews with instructors who use similar classroom methods to determine how they use the technology and their perceived benefits of it, perhaps even in the classroom setting. The focus of my analysis of the student and instructor response data will be to reveal perceived social presence, which, in effect constitutes reality for the individual.

Content Analysis
I will perform a content analysis of the collected student video conversations in which they’ve made multiple comments (both textual and visual). Specifically, I will examine, identify, and taxonomize common elements present in each video including: video length (five length categories) to ascertain quick responses as opposed to more prepared orations; speaking style and formality level (interactive vs. oratory) based on tone, language level, and sentence construction to discover the spontaneous versus formalized conversation; response amount and frequency, which is related to conversation thread longevity, to find out the ongoing or one-off nature of the conversations; and gestures used, which is a factor available exclusive to this visual medium and the FtF setting. Whereas the surveys and interviews consider the meaning of the online video conversation experience for the individuals, the content analysis takes a more objective approach to discover the video trends and commonalities and to triangulate the data.