Background: While web conferencing technologies are being widely used in communication and collaboration, their uptake in conducting research field work has been relatively slow. The benefits that these technologies offer researchers for engaging with hard-to-reach populations are beginning to be recognised, however, the acceptability and feasibility of using web conferencing technology to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in research is unknown.
Objective: This study aims to evaluate whether the use of web conferencing to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in research is an acceptable and feasible alternative to conventional face-to-face methods.
Methods: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged between 18 and 24 years were recruited via emails, flyers and snowballing to participate in an Online Yarning Circle (OYC) about wellbeing conducted via web conferencing. Five young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were trained as peer facilitators and each conducted one or more OYCs with support from an experienced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher. The OYCs were recorded and the researchers conducted post-OYC interviews with the facilitators. OYC recordings, facilitator interviews and researchers’ reflections about the method were analysed to assess acceptability and feasibility for use with this population. Results: 11 OYCs were conducted with 21 participants. The evaluation focused on (a) acceptability of the method for participants and facilitators and (b) feasibility of data collection method and procedures for use in research. Our evaluation revealed good acceptability and feasibility of the method, with only minor challenges experienced, which were predominantly logistical in nature and related to scheduling, obtaining documentation of consent, and technical issues. These challenges were offset by the greater control over the level of engagement that was comfortable for individual participants and the greater ease with which they felt they could withdraw from participating. This shift in the traditional researcher-participant power dynamic was recognised by both participants and peer facilitators and was regarded as a support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people’s participation in research.
Conclusions: The use of web conferencing to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in research offers an acceptable and feasible alternative to face-to-face research methods. The benefits conferred by these technologies associated with yielding greater control and power to the research participant has broad relevance to research with marginalised populations.