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Picking the Best Tool for the Job: Qualtrics vs. REDCap by Madeleine deBlois and Rachel Leih

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Hello! We’re Madeleine deBlois and Rachel Leih, from the Community Research, Evaluation & Development (CRED) Team at the University of Arizona (UA). CRED is a fun & funky group of folks at UA who come from a variety of backgrounds and work on a broad range of projects for UA departments, UA’s Cooperative Extension, and community partners.

Our team, and most of the UA users that we work with, tend to work in Qualtrics thanks to the ease of survey design that it offers. However, we discovered that our university also supports REDCap, and that has now become our go-to platform – in certain situations.

At our university, Qualtrics is the primary licensed resource for survey design. Conversely, REDCap isn’t listed among the licensed resources, likely because it is available at no charge to non-profit organizations as long as they join the REDCap consortium and submit a standard, online license agreement.

Cool tricks: Both platforms have a lot of overlapping functionality that we love.

Specifically, each platform offers these excellent features that are worth exploring if you haven’t already.

  • Automated reporting
  • Surveys in multiple languages
  • Offline capabilities
  • Scheduled invitations and automated reminders
  • Distribution via anonymous links, unique links, and/or QR codes
  • Editable look-and-feel (themes, logos)
  • Differential roles/permissions for different users
  • Web based, secure data collection

There are also features where one platform excels over the other:

Ways that Qualtrics shines:

  • More user-friendly interface on the survey design side with detailed how-to guides
  • Wide variety of question types, including visual options (e.g., smiley faces, thermometers)
  • More control over display format (e.g., page breaks) 
  • Previews are easier, there’s a built-in preview for mobile devices, and the system flags potentially problematic items
  • Google Translate runs in the platform – so convenient!
  • Ability to export to Word – helpful if you want to edit the format for paper distribution
  • Provides an estimate of how long it will take respondents to answer

Ways that REDCap shines:

  • Easy longitudinal data collection!
  • Accessibility perks: Built in read aloud (text-to-speech) and font resizing
  • Users can easily label fields containing identifiable data and construct exports and permissions based on access to these fields
  • People outside your “brand” can get accounts to collaborate (something we struggle with when working with community partners in Qualtrics)
  • Save and return later option for survey participants
  • One-click option for sending participants a copy of their responses
  • Data exports customized for many statistical packages

In short, if you need a platform that maximizes an intuitive, user-friendly interface, with more options for design – both in terms of survey design and in-platform reporting – Qualtrics is your best bet.

If you need a platform that can wrangle repeated measures (i.e., longitudinal data collection), give you myriad data export options, and offer best-in-class security, REDCap is a superior choice.

Rad Resources:

  • If you’re still on the fence, our colleague Kara made a short quiz for our 2022 AEA presentation that is a fun way to sort out which platform best fits your needs.
  • Qualtrics and REDCap also have detailed how-to guides for the features we highlighted.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “Picking the Best Tool for the Job: Qualtrics vs. REDCap by Madeleine deBlois and Rachel Leih”

  1. Love this article. I’m a big REDCap and Qualtrics user, but REDCap is more my jam. Looking for a REDCap user group or training for REDCap. Have you found anything like this? Vanderbilt’s trainings, at least that I’ve seen, are for the REDCap Admins, not regular users.

  2. Matan BenYishay

    This is generally helpful, but I would probably amend to your title: “…within an academic or institutional context.” For solo/small team evaluators, there are very different considerations in terms of support. Qualtrics licenses are quite expensive for small organizations. REDCap, while being open-source, requires very significant IT support for database hosting, maintenance, updates, etc. I think this is why a lot of people struggle along with SurveyMonkey, Google/MS Forms, etc. – not because they’re necessarily the best, but because the best is difficult to access.

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