This fall, the Duke University Global Health Institute in Durham, NC will embark on a pilot project using the iPad as a field research tool. Masters students enrolled in the Research Methods in Global Health Sciences II class will be broken up into groups of three, with each group being given a 3G-enabled iPad.
The course introduces students to a wide range of methodological techniques, including quantitative surveys research, interventions and evaluations along with qualitative techniques of ethnography, survey design and semi-structured interviews. Funding and assistance with the course will come from the Duke Center for Instructional Technology (CIT).
Educational tech consultant Mark Sperber, who will train students on the iPad and decide upon the selection of software, notes that the iPad will allow students to collect and analyze data while in the field, where it's most meaningful. The do-it-nowability of the iPad was written about by mobile research blogger Tim Macer.
Traditionally, field-collected research could not be analyzed until the researcher got to a computer off-site, but the use of iPads will allow data to be examined immediately. Having done my share of quantitative field research I feel that bringing immediacy to the field opens up possibilities that were never before imaginable. The primary goal, according to sociologist Jen'nan Ghazal Read who will be teaching the course, is to equip students with tools allowing them to make the most of their time in the field and master the complex methods on which they will base their research.