Marketing students at Australia’s Victoria University and Malaysia’s Sunway University College have become the first in the world to learn qualitative research software program XSight as part of their final year of study.
Lecturer Michael Edwardson says with a steady stream of companies in the Asia Pacific, Europe and North America embracing the innovative software program, his students have been given the jump on the market, not just in Australia, but around the world.
Developed by Melbourne based company QSR International, XSight removes many of the manual tasks traditionally performed by qualitative researchers. The software allows users to quickly compile, compare and make sense of a broad range of information. Commercial market research firms using XSight in the UK, America and Australia are reporting huge time savings in data collation and organisation, freeing their staff up to devote more time to analysis.
Unlocking the power of qualitative analysis
Mr Edwardson, an Advanced Marketing Research course leader for Victoria University, has been a supporter of XSight since its launch in 2004. Recognising the tangible benefits XSight would have for marketing research students, he first introduced the software’s terminology and processes in his lectures in 2005.
“I started out wanting to use XSight to help students discover the power of qualitative analysis,” he said.
“Although they may not direct their careers into research, they may commission it and it is important for them to understand the processes and what is now possible.”
But Mr Edwardson didn’t stop there. In early 2006 he introduced XSight into computer lab tutorials as part of the curriculum for final year Advanced Marketing Research students at Victoria University and international affiliate Sunway University College in Malaysia.
By June 2006 his students had become the first in the world to use XSight in an academic context, where they designed and executed a qualitative research project as part of their class assignment.
Buoyed by their success, Mr Edwardson has now decided to make the software program a regular feature in his courses.
Attractive skill set for the workplace
“Qualitative research is a field that is gaining popularity and growing more and more advanced,” said Mr Edwardson.
“If we’re to keep up with industry trends and teach our students practical skills for the real world, then it’s important that we have access to the latest tools.
“What we’ve done with XSight in Australia and Malaysia is take this one step further. We’ve armed our students with both skills and experience in market-leading technology, making them more employable and giving them an edge on their competitors.
Completing the research picture
Mr Edwardson said using XSight gives his students a much more rounded perspective and greater “hands on” appreciation for the world of qualitative research and analysis.
“Up until now much of the focus on qualitative research in tertiary institutions has been on technique or method. Because XSight follows the processes commercial market researchers go through on a daily basis it has allowed us to bring the analysis process to the forefront too. It has brought a set of terminology to qualitative research and given students access to a language to discuss their work, making it much more tangible.
A taste of the real world
Mr Edwardson’s students – all 120 of them across three campuses in Australia and Malaysia – used XSight in a joint project to track perceptions of Victoria University’s recent re-branding.
“Each student was required to survey four people, giving us data from 480 respondents to work with,” he said.
“XSight created the workspace for the students to organize and classify their information. They worked through their respondents’ answers, inputting the information into their XSight analysis frameworks. Once the data was entered, their projects were loaded on to a central server and merged together.
“We were then able to look at the big picture, query all the data, discuss implications, build a report and develop a presentation.
“Normally you’d do this with a piece of paper and some highlighters and then add in your verbatims, your articulations and so forth. XSight mirrors this manual process, ensuring the students follow the industry norm. The last thing you want is to have software that makes patterns in the data itself; it takes away the real skill.”
To add to his students’ experience, Mr Edwardson created a high pressure environment to reflect the market research world and its challenges.
“The students were given just one lecture and a tutorial in XSight, with the basics reinforced during the assignment. They had only five weeks to work in teams to collect, enter, analyse, report and present their research. Initially I thought adding another software package to the course would be too much of a steep learning curve for the students but they picked up XSight quickly and solved problems easily while working under pressure.
Research software that reflects current trends
XSight is now set to stay with Mr Edwardson preparing to use the software again with this coming semester’s marketing students.
He said XSight’s appeal is that it reflects the realities of the market research industry today. And as chair of all three ‘Consumer Insight’ conferences in Australia, there are few people better equipped to comment. The conferences, which originated in the UK, are highly regarded for presenting the latest trends and issues in thinking on market research and insight. Through them Mr Edwardson has seen the developing trends in market research first hand. “The software interests me both as a lecturer and a qualified practicing market researcher and consumer psychologist,” he said.
“XSight has helped us to bring to the surface the elements of qualitative research that are not easily demonstrable in a class environment.
“Things like clients wanting actionable recommendations and sound evidence, and the role of the researcher in bringing their interpretive skills and ideas to the data.
Gaining a competitive edge in a competitive market
QSR International CEO John Owen said market research companies are using XSight on a daily basis to do exactly that.
“Many large firms like MORI in the UK are using XSight to give themselves an edge in the market,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that Victoria University is leading the way in providing students with access and training in market-leading technology. We hope to see other tertiary institutions take Victoria University’s lead and include XSight in their marketing curriculum in the near future. It’s a significant advantage for the university, for the students and also for the market research community.”