An exploration of the use of an online Delphi method within an advocacy group
June Elizabeth Macdonald, University of Toronto , Canada
University of Toronto . Awarded
This thesis is an exploratory case study of decision making using a modified online Delphi technique. The Delphi method is often used in many studies but is relatively rarely studied itself and even less so in online mode. Two groups, one with and one without conferencing, were compared with respect to feedback, discussion, degree of consensus, participant satisfaction with the process, and the use of enhanced information. Other aspects examined included the need for facilitation, the effect of anonymity on the interaction and the effect of contentious issues.
Thirty-five members of the advocacy group Fair Vote Canada participated. The heterogeneous sample reflected the geographic, age, occupational and gender diversity of the organization. Delphi and post Delphi web environments were created to collect participants' comments, votes and feedback in a database for qualitative analysis. Data sources included transcripts of asynchronous discussions on the 20 content questions and the 12 post-Delphi questions, results of Likert scales, emails and data logs.
Delphi numerical consensus measures determined from the voting scales indicated that, for most statements, consensus was achieved. Within participants' comments there were few statements directly related to classical decision making; however, most comments dealt with generating and sharing ideas. Participants' self-reporting indicated that, in their opinion, the process felt more like a good discussion than decision-making. One of the satisfactions that participants noted frequently was the learning that they got from doing the study, pertaining either to the voting system or how others thought about it. Another satisfaction was interaction with other participants. An unanticipated finding of differing word counts between two modifications of the Delphi conferencing may have implications for future designs of Delphi online environments. The findings resulting from this distributed Delphi study also provide some insight into the use of informal or colloquial questions, extra information and anonymity.
Participation in this study was active and sustained. Possible reasons for this might be the strong interest of the participants in the topic of discussion and active facilitation. The study provides some insight into decision making in a distributive environment.
Macdonald, J.E. An exploration of the use of an online Delphi method within an advocacy group. Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto.
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