Crafting compelling and effective policy is not a straightforward scientific process. Rather, it is a creative, collaborative activity that requires engaged research and writing, storytelling, and design. During the spring 2016 semester, the course “Engaged Research, Engaged Publics” replicated the policymaking process by providing students with the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams as they investigated recent policy issues in Providence, RI. In partnership with the City of Providence Office of Innovation, students conducted research on policy issues in the city, practiced and reflected on various applied qualitative policy research methods, and crafted effective and compelling policy narratives that were presented to publics within and outside of the university setting.

At its core, the course was a research methods practicum where students applied methodological toolkits and digital technologies to engage in the practices of policy analysts, consultants, and applied researchers. Students used mobile devices and applications throughout the research and creative processes to collect and analyze field data, collaborate across teams, and share their findings with public audience.  


Software & Hardware
  • Loaner iPads for each enrolled

  • Lavalier microphones for recording interviews onto iPads

  • Evernote app to collect, compile and code data. 


Starting several weeks before the semester, the course instructors partnered with instructional designers from the Instructional Technology Group to identify technological solutions, design application workflows, and deploy iPads.  


Mobile devices and cloud-based applications proved to be invaluable to the course’s pedagogical activities. IPads allowed students to capture and store field data in digital formats, collaborate with peers in real-time, and move immediately to organizational and analytic research activities.