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Keywords:

  • focus groups;
  • online research;
  • nursing;
  • rural

Aim.  This paper reports a study that explored whether active engagement and group interaction could be captured in an online environment.

Background.  Focus groups have become a common means of capitalizing on group interaction to collect rich responses to questions posed. Whilst their use is well established in the repertoire of qualitative researchers, with changing technology there is the opportunity to use a computer program that facilitates online engagement and interaction to bring together a group of people to explore issues, attitudes and perceptions.

Method.  Using a qualitative descriptive method and purposive sampling, 38 Australian Enrolled Nurses participated in an online focus group. WebCT©, a program that facilitates online engagement and interaction, was used to enable participants to interact from any computer, from any location, at any time.

Findings.  The experience of conducting an online focus group was a positive one. Advantages such as cost savings and convenience for both researcher and participants were identified. This study demonstrated that participants could be actively engaged over a 2-month period and that group interaction could be achieved to collect richly detailed research data.

Conclusion.  Whilst online focus groups may not be suitable in every situation, the potential exists to capitalize on technology to bring together a group of people separated by distance in an online environment that encourages interactive discussion.