The National Extension College (NEC), a not-for-profit distance learning provider, wanted to explore the potential viability of an online level 2 language qualification. They were looking for evidence to support decision-making, and wanted to understand the demographics of prospective students, the availability of potential teachers, and the environmental factors which might impact the success of the course, among other areas.
Choosing the method: Shift identified that desk research would be vital in ensuring an up-to-date evidence base for NEC. We recommended a blended-evidence review, which involved an analysis of publicly available sources, including research and news reports, alongside some academic articles. This method is less time-consuming and more concise than a full academic literature review, but still involves a close reading of the sources involved to address key objectives.
Refining the objectives: NEC presented Shift with their broad overarching business needs, which Shift translated into more specific and actionable research objectives. These were further refined based on an initial scoping of the information and publicly available sources.
Blended evidence review:
- Scoping: Shift identified and screened potential sources, providing a brief outline of what they contained, as well as their relevance to the research objectives and audience groups. We gave recommendations as to whether sources should be included in our review and why, which was then approved by NEC.
- Data analysis: Shift created a grid separated by the different research objectives. Each source was read closely, and we filled out the grid with a detailed analysis of each source, organised under the relevant objectives. This included a PEST analysis.
We summarised the data from the desk research grid into a comprehensive and actionable report, structured by the different research objectives. The report included clear recommendations for what NEC should consider if they plan to introduce the course, as well as key opportunity areas.