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iPad App Helps U Delaware Researchers Gather Data in the Field

The University of Delaware's Center for Disabilities Studies has implemented a mobile iPad and iPhone app that helps its researchers improve the speed and accuracy of their data gathering and reporting in the field.

The Delaware Positive Behavior Support Project (PBS), a joint project of the Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware Department of Education, works to help schools create positive environments for students and staff as a way of minimizing problem behaviors and providing support for students who need it, according to the project's Web site. As part of this project, researchers from the Center conduct on-site evaluations of the program at more than 100 public schools around the state and deliver reports of results to the participating schools.

In the past, researchers gathered evaluation data using pens and paper and manually tallied and entered the data into separate Excel spreadsheets, which were then uploaded to the database for analysis and report generation. The tedious process was time consuming and at risk of data entry errors. As the number of schools participating in the program increased, so did the need for a more streamlined process.

The Center for Disabilities Studies partnered with IT Solutions to create a custom FileMaker-based system for the project's main database. Once that was in place, they created a mobile app that syncs to and from the the main database on the FileMaker Go platform.

The sync process preloads the iPads with the latest relevant information, so researchers have access to it in the field. And researchers can use the FileMaker Go app to record data electronically and sync with the database through a modified version of the GoZync syncing engine. The app also includes a predefined questionnaire to help researchers manage data in real time, broken down by specific variables.

According to a case study from IT Solutions, the new system has reduced the time required to conduct each study and completely eliminated manual data entry and concerns about erroneous data. The Center can now complete more studies in less time, conduct state-level analysis more easily, and track trends across schools for planning purposes.

Further information about FileMaker Go is available on the FileMaker site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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