This wasn't a standard training course. We were promised a tour of another universe which started, for me anyway, by keeping an online diary during my holiday in the American mid-west and finished at my desk doing an online group in our Waterloo office. At every port, this whirlwind tour of the world of online qualitative research challenged our stock responses to fundamental questions: What constitutes research? How do I go about it?

I wasn't alone in arriving thinking that online qualitative research simply involved more superficial ways of conducting groups, but there can't be many of us that thought that at the end of the day. What was clear was that the internet has the potential to transform rather than mimic, qualitative research processes. Many of the tools we were introduced to draw on social networking principles first utilised by marketers, to get closer to consumers and unlock their creativity, rather than researchers. We were, as a result, left wondering how we could use them in a way that maintains our margins and complies with the MRS code.

The course tutors, Joanna Chrzanowska and John Griffiths, did their best to help us. We were given direct experience of an online bulletin board, private social network and focus group; provided with case studies; heard from leading practitioners; saw supplier demonstrations and even received a transmission about the implications for research standards from MRS HQ. However, the course was far from an off-the-peg guide to online qualitative research. Instead, it was rallying call to innovate and evolve new approaches. The course was a start but its value will only be realised if we are able to respond to this call.