Assembling the heterogeneous elements for digital learning

Exploring auto-coding with NVivo

The challenge here is learn more about using NVivo in order to design processes for a research project exploring the prevalence and nature workarounds in higher education learning and teaching.

Can Word documents be imported and pre marked up?

The current plan is to have people complete a Word template. The template consists of numerous questions related to Alter’s Theory of Workarounds (Alter, 2014). The question is whether there’s a good way to structure this document to make it easier to code responses according to Alter’s (2014) theory? A simple first step to further analysis.

The answer is yes. Following documents the process.

What’s the NVivo model?

I’m a great believer in the idea that most difficulties with using software arises from a model mismatch between the person and the software. Hence my starting point with a new bit of software is to try and build a representation of the model underpinning the software.

The fact that NVivo’s makers have a Understand the key concepts page has me feeling good about Nvivo. As does the observation that the Using NVivo page starts with a focus on different types of qualitative research – the domain from which most potential NVivo users will have some familiarity. Start with where the user is. Good.

Though a diagram the “using” page does suggest that importing of data into NVivo is a separate from coding.

Quick summary of some of the concepts


NVivo Purpose

Local project


Materials to analyse (can organise in folders)

Individual workaround descriptions


Place to store ideas and thoughts arising from analysis

Descriptions of analysis process/progress


Process of analysing content and allocating to a node

Analysis of workarounds


Container for content coded as belonging to a common theme. Can be organised in a hierarchy.

There is some support for auto coding structured content that can rely on consistent use of paragraph styles in documents. Even supports the idea of nested nodes through use of nested headings (e.g. H1, H2 etc).

First test

As it happens, many years of frustration with Microsoft Word has convinced me of the value of using paragraph styles correctly. Hence the template is already set up. I should be able to import and auto-code my first.

Wonder if I can do it without following the recipe instructions.

There was an option to

Create a new case for each imported file?

What’s a case in NVivo speak? Ahh, nodes can be theme or case nodes. Each workaround being a separate case node seems like a useful idea. But there’s also the idea of a workaround belonging to a particular individual. Appears multiple case nodes are possible.

Importing is straight forward. Need to use the autocode wizard and make some decisions about where to put new nodes. For now, place them under the case code for the workaround.

And it all appears to work

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *