By Aidan Wilson
REDCap is a platform that is widely used in the non-profit research sector for secure and robust participant data collection, but it is also being used by many sites for more administrative functions. Aidan Wilson, Intersect’s eResearch analyst at ACU, has had years of experience building simple and complex REDCap projects for researchers. He saw the potential of REDCap to fill this gap.
After software vendors asked ACU to provide reporting on student usage of software applications, Intersect’s eResearch Analyst built a licence key and voucher management system using REDCap. This new system automates the process to a large degree, and facilitates detailed reporting to software vendors, as well as allowing the University to contact students to inform them of updates to the licence.
Until recently, licences for NVivo and vouchers for SPSS were handled in different ways. To get access to NVivo, students would email the eResearch team, who would send the single licence key to the student’s email. To get access to SPSS, students would email the Research Systems team, who would validate that the student is a postgraduate researcher, and check to see whether enough vouchers remained for the year, before allocating a single voucher to the student and sending it to them via email.
Both of these processes contain some human decision making and thus risk errors. They also introduce some confusion as they are handled by different teams within the office. Furthermore, when asked by the vendor for the number of people who had been given the licence key for NVivo, staff would have to search through sent emails to find licencees.
These issues lead ACU and the Intersect eResearch Analyst, Aidan Wilson, to think up a new process.
Both applications’ licences are now managed in their own REDCap project. Students apply for a licence by filling out a simple survey and acknowledging the terms of the licence. Completing the survey triggers an email to ORS staff who then review the application. In the case of SPSS, REDCap maintains a list of vouchers and tracks which have been allocated, allowing ORS staff to assign a spare voucher to the applicant.
Once ORS staff have processed the request, the student is automatically emailed with the licence or voucher, as well as instructions on installing the software.
This system further simplifies ongoing administration and communication between the vendors and the students. Reports can be run at any time to generate a list of students who have been allocated licences, and the students can be sent follow up invitations to apply for a replacement licence when it becomes available. This reduces the overhead in replying to each student when the software informs them of their licence expiring.
In working together with ORS staff, the eResearch Analyst was able to leverage existing tools and his own experience in process automation to alleviate manual effort of staff.
“Using REDCap to facilitate allocation of software licences to research students was a great suggestion from Aidan.” Reports Rod Lewis, Manager of Research Systems at ACU. “Typically we view REDCap as a tool for researchers to build research survey instruments so Aidan’s suggestion to support the administration of research with REDCap was quite a nice innovation. Not only has it helped streamline the process but Aidan was able to very quickly build the REDCap instruments, demo them and get us up and running. It’s great to have the process semi-automated and have all the requests and responses stored in one place.”