Collecting data with tablets

The Institute for Special Needs Education are using tablets for collecting brand new data for research.

When researchers want to forge new paths, there is always help available at UiO. USIT can help with adapting and developing software solutions, setting up tablets for projects and they can also make sure that the data is handled and stored safely and in accordance with the strickt Norwegian privacy act.

Additionaly, at UiO's Faculty of Educational Sciences, there is an EngageLab, which contributes with design, guidance and development of solutions for a wide range of technological platforms. 

New methods

When researchers at The Institue for Special Needs Education (ISP) wanted a new approach when testing word teaching tools, they got exactly what they wanted. In the study "The vocabulary learning challenge" they are studying the effects of a digital learning program in second graders in their natural learning environment. The data will be analysed in a legally safe environment, but with easy access. 

The data in this study comes from different tasks the children have to solve in an app on a tablet. The tablets are bought by ISP, and the app was developed in EngageLab. USIT set up the tablets in such a way that the children involved only could gain access to the app in question. This meant that the researchers could safely give the tablets to the children without worrying about the subjects getting distracted by other features on the tablet. The way the tablets were set up also made it very easy to install the apps on all the tablets. It also made it easy to reinstall and update the tablets.

Many benefits

With this kind of tablet study, the ISP gets the opportunity to analyse how much time the children spend on the different tasks, if the order of which the tasks are solved has an impact on the answer, and other assessments. This means that the researchers in the study can measure the dynamics of the learning process and not just the end result. This is called "online data".

– Some advantages in using tablets in a study like this is that the children get to work in their natural environment and is not removed from the classroom and put in a computer room or test room. This would affect the child, says Janne von Koss Torkildsen, the project manager for this study.

The first round of the study involves five schools with children in the second grade. Approximately 400 children are participating. 

– This means that it is even more important that the control and installation process is easy. Thanks to the effective operational services at USIT, we have achieved that goal, Torkildsen says.

Internally developed tools working together

The data is delivered from the aformentioned app to UiOs Nettskjema (UiOs service for online forms and surveys) and further into TSD, USITs storage service for sensitive data. 

The integration between the app and Nettskjema is easy because both has been developed at UiO. Nettskjema is specially adapted to be able send sensitive data containing personal information directly to TSD. This means that the data is not stored on the tablets which the children are using for solving the tasks. Computer safety and the childrens privacy is maintained through the whole process.

The use of apps and tablets in a research capacity has increased a lot during the last year, and more and more people are seeing the benefits of collecting data this way.

One of the challenges for developing these kinds of learning resources has been measuring to what extent the schools are following the arrangement.

– Through Nettskjema we can extract detailed data about how often and how long the app is used by each individual child. By doing this, we can see if the amount of time used on the app during the study has any connection with the amount they are learning. We can also remove data from those we can tell has not followed the arrangement. This increases the quality of the data and makes us able to draw better conclusions in our research, Torkildsen says.

USIT – an active part of the projects

USIT is at the moment actively participating in five to six research projects affiliated with UiO, where the data collecting is done by mobile devices. USIT is on their way to establishing a new concept when it comes to what is needed to do this kind of data collecting. It involves what equipment to use, designing a service or an application, making an online survey or form, logging in and more.

– Both buying the tablets and developing the apps is relatively expensive. If demand grows and USIT uses their expertise on these kinds of services, it would be a great benefit if the tablets could be rented from USIT to the researchers for a limited amount of time, Torkildsen says.

Published Aug. 24, 2017 11:23 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2017 11:23 AM