Researching Distance Learning Using a Qualitative Case Study Approach: Tackling the Issue of Generalisation - to Generalise or not to Generalise ...

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF4 // Qualitative case study enables us to have a thick description and understanding of the reality. It provides a sense of ‘being there’. Despite the many positive aspects of case studies in qualitative research, qualitative case studies continued to be criticized for its lack of objectivity and generalisability. The word 'generalisability' is defined as the degree to which the findings can be generalized from the study sample to the entire population. Quantitative research implicitly assumes that theories are only built upon statistical inference. It tends to forget that statistics are but one instrument to assist human minds to arrive at theories. A theory which is well tested over one population does not necessarily apply to another population and it decays over time. This paper suggests that while qualitative studies are not generalisable in the traditional sense of the word, nor do they claim to be, they can have other redeeming features which make them highly valuable in the education community. This can be achieved by extending the power to generalise to readers or other researchers through the concept of relatability in responding to the issue of generalisability in qualitative research. In doing so, this paper discussed Michael Bassey’s fuzzy generalisation to explain the power play that readers can have in generating generalisation in qualitative research. The concept of ‘relatability’ has its own merits, one that is justifiable and has its own potential to be developed.This paper is based on two qualitative case study on the experiences and perspectives of a small group of distance learners as they progress through their courses at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and a study on the perspectives of five-star hotel in Penang towards environmental policy and issues in Malaysia. // Paper ID 232