Gather Evaluation Study

Please read through the information below, which describes the purpose, benefits, and risks of participating in the research study of Gather. If you have questions about the study or are ready to consent or decline to participate once you have read this information, please return to the online consent form.

Your participation is completely voluntary and will not be shared with Gather staff, and it will in no way affect your status in Gather.

If you wish to print this information, you may download a pdf version.


Study Title: An Evaluation of the Pilot Gather Online Course

Principal Investigator: Lisa Dush, PhD—Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

What is the purpose of this research?

I am asking you to be in a research study because I am trying to learn more about whether students in the pilot Gather course meet key learning outcomes and what might be improved in future iterations of the course. The study will include both members of the Gather development team and Gather students: I hope to include about 15 people in the research.

Why are you being asked to be in the research?

You are invited to participate in this study because you are a student in the pilot Gather course. You must be age 18 or older to be in this study. This study is not approved for the enrollment of people under the age of 18.

What is involved in being in the research study?

If you agree to be in this study, being in the research involves the following:

First, you allowing me to collect materials from Gather that demonstrate your skills at various key points of the course, including the following: 1) your written application materials to Gather; 2) your response to a prompt in Module 2; 3) any responses you submit to the “Help us Improve Gather” prompts at the end of each course module; 4) your community-created community asset map, completed in Module 6; 5) your answers to the reflective questions in Module 8, which ask you to evaluate your experience in Gather; 6) your community project proposal (the culminating project of Gather); and 7) the crowdfunding site you design to promote your community project.

There will be no extra work on your part to get these materials to me. To maintain the confidentiality of those who consent and do not consent to participate in this study, the Goldin will forward me all students’ written application materials and I will delete the materials of those students not participating in the study. I will be able to directly download your other materials from the administrative panel in Gather.

Some of your work for Gather will be in the form of photographs and video. I will collect these materials as part of my research, but if you wish me to not use them for more than research purposes—for example, I may use images in a conference presentation or publication—you may opt out of having your media files used for more than research purposes by choosing “Option 2: I consent to participate in the study. I DO NOT give authorization to Prof. Dush to use photographs and video from my coursework in publications and conferences” on the online consent form. Note that to preserve anonymity, I will digitally alter any media to obscure identifying details (i.e., by blurring faces and digitally altering any identifiable words in the images).

Besides granting me access to selected work in this course, participation in the study involves having a 30-minute interview by phone or teleconference with me after Gather is complete. In this interview, I will ask you to elaborate on the work that you have completed in Gather, your experience in the course, and your suggestions for future students and for the Gather team. This interview will be audio recorded and transcribed into written notes later in order to get an accurate record of what you said.

How much time will this take?

The interview will take about 30 minutes to complete. All other work is part of the tasks you will complete as a student in Gather.

Are there any risks involved in participating in this study?

The only risks of being in this study are related to the small number of participants, which means that I cannot assure complete anonymity in publications related to the research: you may be identifiable to Goldin staff or to other participants in Gather, were they to read a published study. While I will, in any research that I publish, use pseudonyms (made-up names) for those interviewed, the description of your relationship to the course will likely reveal your identity to readers of that research who are affiliated with Gather. For example, if I include a quote in a publication that is attributed to “Isaac, a course participant from Uganda,” those readers closely affiliated with Gather will likely know the real identity of Isaac, despite the pseudonym.

Are there any benefits to participating in this study?

There are no significant benefits from being in this study. I do plan to share my findings with the Goldin Institute staff during the delivery of Gather, which may help them to make adjustments to course assignments and resources in ways that will improve your experience of the course. I hope that what I learn will also help staff at the Goldin Institute to revise the course for future Gather participants, as well as assist other designers and teachers of online courses in envisioning innovative ways to deliver online courses.

Can you decide not to participate?

Your participation is voluntary, which means you can choose not to participate.  There will be no negative consequences, penalties, or loss of benefits if you decide not to participate or change your mind later and withdraw from the research after you begin participating.

Your decision whether or not to participate will not affect your relationship with the Goldin Institute, as the Institute staff will not be notified about who has chosen to participate or not participate.

Who will see my study information and how will the confidentiality of the information collected for the research be protected?

The research records will be kept and stored securely, and materials associated with you will be identified by a number, rather than by your name. When I write about the study or publish a paper to share the research with other researchers, I will not directly identify you: I will use a pseudonym (made-up name). I will make every effort to prevent anyone who is not on the research team—including staff of the Goldin Institute—from knowing that you gave me information, or what that information is.  However, some people might review or copy our records that may identify you in order to make sure we are following the required rules, laws, and regulations.  For example, the DePaul University Institutional Review Board may review your information.  If they look at our records, they will keep your information confidential.

The audio recordings from our interview will be kept until accurate written notes have been made, then they will be destroyed.

Who should be contacted for more information about the research?

Before you decide whether to accept this invitation to take part in the study, please ask any questions that might come to mind now.  Later, if you have questions, suggestions, concerns, or complaints about the study or you want to get additional information or provide input about this research, you can contact the researcher, Lisa Dush, at or 1-773-325-4069.

This research has been reviewed and approved by the DePaul Institutional Review Board (IRB). If you have questions about your rights as a research subject you may contact Susan Loess-Perez, DePaul University’s Director of Research Compliance, in the Office of Research Services at 1-312-362-7593 or by email at

You may also contact DePaul’s Office of Research Services if:

  • Your questions, concerns, or complaints are not being answered by the research team.
  • You cannot reach the research team.
  • You want to talk to someone besides the research team.

After you have read this information, please return to the online consent form, where you can give or decline consent to participate.