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Teri Garstka on Using REDCap for Designing a Data Collection System

My name is Teri Garstka and I am currently a Research Associate in the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service at the University of Kansas. We have a wide portfolio of research and evaluation projects in early childhood, child welfare and youth programs, and family services.

We work with lots of state, local, and community-based agencies. This means we also must work with the many types of Management Information Systems (MIS) used in those agencies to help us evaluate their programs and the families they serve. As we all know, data systems never “talk” to one another and true cross-systems data collection, analysis, and reporting can be quite challenging.

We needed a wonder tool that would:

  • Integrate Data!
    • Have the ability to bring together existing data from disparate agency management information systems into one handy place
    • Link client-level data across systems and data collection methodologies
    • Build the data system to include everything we need and nothing we don’t
  • Secure Data!
    • Keep data secure when collected and not stored on a mobile device or PC
    • Reside on a HIPAA Compliant server to transfer Protected Health Information (PHI) data from agencies
  • Collect Data!
    • Need the ability conduct field interviews in natural environments such as in the home or community to build rapport and get rid of paper and pencil surveys
    • Need to interface with emerging mobile technologies such as iPads and PC Tablets
    • Need web-access surveys and multiple response formats
  • Report Data!
    • Need to export any of the data in multiple formats for analysis and reporting
    • Calendar multiple data collection timepoints
    • De-identify information as needed

Rad Resource: We found a great tool to help us integrate existing data from an agency’s information system with real-time data collection from families in the field. Created by Vanderbilt University with NIH funding, Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) is a web-based application that non-computer programmers can learn and use freely if their institution is a consortium member.  After a few tutorials, you can learn to build a REDCap database for your project and customize it to fit the unique data system needs of almost any project. We like REDCap because it is so versatile and easy to use – it’s perfect for social scientists and evaluators looking for a more robust data collection system without having to hire a computer programmer for every project.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. Want to learn more from Teri? Teri and her colleagues will be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2011 Conference Program, November 2-5 in Anaheim, California.

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