Duke University Implements iPads for Field Research Studies

This autumn, the Duke University Global Health Institute located in Durham, NC, will initiate a trial project that incorporates the iPad as a tool for field research. Students pursuing a Masters in the Research Methods in Global Health Sciences II course will be grouped in trios and each group will receive a 3G-enabled iPad.

The curriculum covers a broad spectrum of research methodologies, from quantitative research to qualitative techniques such as ethnography, survey design, and semi-structured interviews. Support and funding for this initiative are provided by the Duke Center for Instructional Technology (CIT).

Mark Sperber, an educational tech consultant, will oversee the training on the iPads and software selection.

He emphasizes that the iPads will enhance the ability to collect and analyze data directly in the field. The concept of immediate data analysis was discussed by mobile research expert Tim Macer.

Traditionally, data collected in the field could only be processed after returning to a computer. The introduction of iPads into the field research environment allows for instant data review and analysis.

As someone experienced in quantitative field research, I believe this immediacy can unlock new research potentials. The main objective, as stated by sociologist Jen’nan Ghazal Read, who will lead the course, is to provide students with the necessary tools to maximize their fieldwork and master complex research methodologies.

Students will initially undertake local field assignments using the eight iPads provided for the course, preparing them for their upcoming global research projects in 2011. Duke University’s research currently extends across 37 low-resource countries, from Bangladesh to Vietnam.


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