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Isn’t it about time you got involved in research?

This blog first appeared on the Epic website on October 18th 2011

Research – whether commissioning it, conducting it, or contributing to it – may be destined for many organisations’ ‘non-essential’ or ‘nice-to-have’ piles (especially given the current economic climate). However, at Epic, we find ourselves getting more and more involved…

Commissioning it

Last year, Epic completed a research study into mobile learning, commissioned by NHS South Central Strategic Health Authority. The findings fed into their mobile learning strategy and led to the building of a number of apps. But that’s not all. The NHS kindly agreed to make their research report publicly available. As a result, it attracted considerable attention from staff in other areas of national and local government. With no budget to commission research of their own, these staff used some of the NHS’s findings, and meetings with NHS South Central, to help formulate mobile learning strategies for their organisations too.

Another example is research commissioned by the National College – the Government-funded body that trains and develops school leaders. Already, they offer all kinds of online learning, such as diagnostics, simulations, and structured collaborative short courses. They wanted to know how their offering measured up to management and leadership e-learning in other sectors; and whether their audience was hungry for more. In fact, the outcomes of the research showed they compare very favourably indeed, and their audience want (and expect!) more.

Both these examples demonstrate how research is assisting the public sector. But it is not just the public sector that is turning to Epic for research. We have also just heard that we will be helping one of the world’s most popular knowledge-sharing websites with some research– we can’t give away much more detail at the moment, but needless to say we’re very excited!

Conducting it

As Epic gets involved in conducting research, staff inevitably further their own understanding by carrying out literature reviews, interviewing stakeholders, running focus groups for learners, and such like. And this feeds into their work with all clients. Then, for larger-scale studies, academic experts peer review the work, ensuring the methodology demonstrates rigour and the findings are robust. This really keeps us on our toes!

Contributing to it

Only a couple of weeks ago, I spoke on the topic of how business and academia can work together for mutual benefit, keynoting at a conference run by the organisation Vitae, which champions the skills and development of research staff in higher education. I was also recently interviewed, along with Epic’s Strategic Development Director, Lars Hyland, for a study being undertaken by Ashridge Business School. They are exploring how mobile technologies are changing the learning landscape.

Very early on in the project we identified Epic as one of the leaders in this field”, says Dr Carina Schofield, who is running the research. “As well as providing us with case studies, the expertise and knowledge Naomi and Lars brought to our discussion around mobile learning in general will feed directly into our final report.

Lars and I maintain that this discussion was no walk in the park! The questions really forced us to think and reflect and sometimes to disagree, to discuss, and then ultimately to reach consensus. There is no doubt for Lars, me or anybody at Epic that this kind of thinking will feed into our upcoming mobile work.

Do it!

The more we do it – get involved in research – at Epic, the more we see the benefits: not just for us, but for clients, for academic colleagues… for everyone. So, if research is a word you haven’t dared utter in your organisation for a while, for fear that it is ‘non-essential’, or a ‘nice-to-have’, then we urge you to reconsider. Who knows, perhaps you could really benefit too?