Thursday, 7 August 2008

Mobile Surveys to get research or educational data from your users/learners


How can you get relevant survey data from your learners' mobile to your server so you can immediately build on new knowledge? Indeed, by using mobile survey software that allows a variety of data exchange.

Mobile surveys that send back usable data is a quest on its own. Yesterday and today I was testing out SurveyToGo a mobile survey software build be Dooblo.

At ITM we want to start with data surveys that (ideally) will cut down our field time and give farmers, physicians or researchers in the field a more autonomic way of giving data feedback to us and our South partners. Taken mobile surveys is a way we are exploring today. What we look for is survey software that will enable us to give free text, answer multiple choice and even - if possible - let the person in the field take a picture of a certain region, cattle or other species or skin rash etcetera depending on the type of data we are looking for. This is no small thing! It demands an awful lot from the developers side and with SurveyToGo I think we might have a breakthrough (thanks to designer extra-ordinair San-Ho Correwyn) for directing me to this wonderful mobile software.

If you do not want to read the post, but immediately want to start reading SurveyToGo documentation, lookie here; or jump into the basic demo.

So let us look at SurveyToGo by Dooblo
Before starting: this is mobile software for Windows Mobile phones.

The installation is not up and go, you need to read the instructions carefully. But then again this software is really sophisticated (you can even keep track of quota if necessary). The fact that it is such sophisticated software makes it very useful in research areas because the survey developer has a certain amount of autonomy that enables her or him to design the survey up to the real research or educational needs.

I have chosen to install the software on my desktop first and then (using my MS activesync) getting the first survey onto my mobile by synchronisation. This did take more steps then Dooblo mentions in their pdf helpfiles. This was mainly due to the fact that I needed to manually install (= double click) on the mySQL and an update setup on my mobile... so not that difficult if you are used to looking at such solutions. The window for the installation to the mobile did block so I had to hard stop this window.

The first survey I had installed on my mobile device (HTC TYTN) swiftly went through the first test survey. That was a relief.

Now all the necessary software was installed on my mobile device, I decided on building a second survey. To get this latest survey onto my mobile device, I just needed to synchronise my mobile device through the web, this got the latest survey on my mobile. So you only need to install the software once and after that it goes out to look for the latest surveys. It really works like a charm.

Exporting data could be done by a range of preferences (possibilities: Excel, Access, Word, spss, XML provider or SurveyToGo itself) and this was also remarkably easy. I did not read up on this, I just tried it out and it worked rather intuitively.

Building surveys is really easy, if you are used to building surveys this software is almost intuitive. You can test drive surveys or put them into production, which offers you the certainty of being able to test them thoroughly before exposing your users to it. There is a very varied amount of questions that can be asked: yes/no, scale, matrix, multi questions, multi answers, free text, ...

The software lets the developer add rules (making it possible to skip the the next relevant question), put in recognizable characters for the variables of the questions (nice if you quickly want to analyse the results of the survey or if you like this to connect to your research). You can add 'advanced question options' that allow you to add a 'no answer' or 'other' option to any question.

In short after only two days of testing it is clear that SurveyToGo mobile survey software has an amazing potential. If all goes well and one of ITM's top veterinary researchers Maxime Madder gives his okay, we will be test driving this in South-Africa within months. Once we launch into it, I will keep you informed. By then we will have tested different cell phones and toyed with users and survey deployers to get a better idea of what is possible or not.

The thing I still need to figure out is the final message, which would give the users a nice feeling after finishing the survey. I guess I can make it as another question that will not be taken up while the survey data is exported.

Really this is great software AND there is a great free full trial, so try it out. This mobile software really made my day because it solved a research need.