Another questionnaire from a participating student was received today. A preliminary analysis of the responses revealed a very interesting feature that the student would like to see in a system that supports the task of conducting a trial: “[a] central portal for collaboration with colleagues.” -which is precisely the underlying philosophy of VRIC. I am certain that responses from other students will show equally interesting notions.
The first version of the structure of a student trial is now complete. Changes to how the contents are organised will now be adjusted following feedback from the group of students who will work as co-designers.
First phase of research work with the students has been initialised. In this stage, they were sent a questionnaire to gather their views and experiences on conducting trials and studying in a distance learning modality. I have received responses from one student and have started the analysis of the data following a grounded theory approach. Findings from the analysis of students’ questionnaires will provide a picture of the type of tools they use and the mechansism followed in the conduction and documentation of a trial.
I have put the begins of the IDE-like interface in the site, the interface system we are calling the ‘Workbench’, since it shall be the framework that everything is done via. So kinda like a Black-and-Decker workmate but more Web2.0 warm and fuzzy.
I am, of course, referring to the new look website… So far all you can do is log on and off(!) but you do it in the brave new world of Web 2.0 and AJAX… Next up, porting the trial code…
The task for today is to create and get working the welcome and login page. Currently the page has a nice ExtJS panel which takes the details, and also the current welcome text taken from the ‘demo’ site.
The login and other common ‘tasks’ are being stored in a library of common tools which other LSL projects could make use of.
(U)ser e(X)perience is the latest terminology for what used to be called (H)uman (C)omputer (I)nteraction… Whatever it is called it is the most important part of any software that it is intended to be, errr, used, but sadly, it is also the most over-looked. UX in web applications is particularly tricky since HTML and HTTP were not designed to deploy applications with rich user interactions and hence we end up with lots of page refreshes, context switches and poor interactions.
To combat these problems, frameworks have evolved to allow us to build what are known as “Rich Internet Applications” (RIAs) (an old-fashioned TLA ;^). One such (Open Source) framework is called extJS. extJS is used by companies such Adobe, Amazon, HSBC etc and we are now using it on the VRIC project to hopefully improve the UX in general, but specifically in the navigation of the complex document-like hierarchy that makes up a research trial.
Following this morning’s lab meeting, this e-mail outlines the RNOH involvement in the development of the virtual research integration and collaboration program. As you know the work is funded by the JISC (research division of the Higher Education Funding Council of England – HEFCE). As such part of our commitment to the work is to be able to demonstrate how we are integrating clinical research and educational practice, and in particular providing a suitable online environment for the education of new members of our community. This means that we not only speculate and develop ‘proof of concept’ prototypes, but we are actually going to use it!
Having been through two early iterations in the first phase of the project, developing an interface on a web-based platform, we are now progressing to the second phase, where it is necessary to start to populate a version of the system, as a demonstrator. From the perspective of the translational research element here, we are progressing from a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of ‘3’ – proof of concept system, to at least TRL5 where we are embedding a prototype within a working environment.
This can sometimes be a precarious phase of development as it depends upon good co-design and feedback between the end-users and the development team. I am very pleased to say that we have an excellent working environment with respect to the personnel, and a clear strategy for how we are going to roll the system out. As part of this phase, there are three types of studies that are being progressively developed. These are broadly categorised as;
• Student project support
• Audit Projects
• Randomised controlled trial research projects
The first of these 3 to be rolled out is the student project support package. The intention is that over the next two weeks we will prime three such projects led by three separate individuals who represent the student community. These three ‘phase II’ demonstration projects are;
Paediatric Orthopaedic Database: The main principle behind the introduction of this study is to demonstrate our principles for preparation and data set up. Raphael Malikian, a third-year medical student, who has already completed an intercalated BSc in musculoskeletal science will lead this. He will be charged with helping us develop the paediatric orthopaedic database over the next three months and in particular to help populate this database with operative records from Mr Aresh Nejad (Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon – RNOHT) and with the support of Dr Peter Smitham (Academic Clinical Orthopaedic Lecturer – IOMS), after Easter when he returns to Stanmore.
Brake Pedal: The second project is an active intercalated BSc project to be led by Kirsty MacLeod, also a student at UCL & Royal Free Medical School, Who has completed the first two years of undergraduate training. This stage of her project is a two-month project also starting at the beginning in the basic science arena, which will lead to a further three month project in the clinical arena. The latter will be championed by one of our MSc students after April 2010. During this phase of development, the floating this project will be the need to interact with the “integrated research application system”. IRAS integration matters, in order to ensure that we are able to demonstrate the ability to not only interface with self and peer governance tools but also with the state governance mechanisms. This study will include the collection of data from physical measurements recorded both in the laboratory (under the aegis of the ‘outcome measures’ team and in the latter stage from the clinical environment.
SEMG: The third project will be led by Dana Maki, one of our award-winning MSc students who wishes to prepare for a PhD. She is a physiotherapist by profession, and thus represents one of the multidisciplinary team members. Her project over the next six weeks will be focusing in the prepublication area of the project and in particular reflect activities inside the virtual research integration and collaboration environment itself. This is also related to the surface EMG study that has an article being prepared for publication at present, following successful acceptance of a conference poster.
Evaluation of the VRIC Student Project Support Module
Each of these three studies reflects different aspects of the student learning environment and so in effect will place a different strain on that environment. That is not however the sole mechanism of this evaluation.
To assess the ‘User eXperience’ (UX) users will be provided with tools to support feedback and bug reporting. This will also provide the opportunity for the reviewers to offer insights as end users which may include the recommendation of further features.
Before using the system the User eXperience (UX) questionnaire should be completed. There will then be the opportunity for Alex Regio, one of our researchers to conduct more in-depth interviews with each of these users (probably conducted by Skype). Further survey questions may be asked after a period of time whilst using the software.
For this study, each user may benefit from voice to text software and possibly a laptop or tablet from the project pool. These will be discussed with the individuals concerned and will come from the RNOHT VRIC budget. The laptops will remain with the project but the software obviously will be customised for the user. Each person will either need an honorary university or hospital contract. We will set this up in the way most appropriate to the individual so that they can either use the RNOHT dedicated Research server or the ECS (Soton University) Server linked via UCL Moodle VLE.
The one big ‘warning’ message is that in this version, any trial user can see any other’s work and so it is secure from the rest of the world and under my name I am confident that we can share this information. We cannot however use this at this stage for ANY work that involves the work with ‘Non-Disclosure Agreements’ (NDAs) in place such as the ‘PowerWheel’ project which will ink into the SEMG project or any of the ECS optoelectronics or signal analysis work.
I shall arrange to meet with each of the individuals in the next week or so to finalise the details and we can get started on the detail for each project to ‘hit the ground running’ once the new research environment is in place in 2 weeks time. I shall send out the questionnaires by Monday that will need to be completed next week.