May 23, 2013

IRB: So many potential acronyms

This is my first time applying for IRB, and I'm also the P.I.. I'm not going to go into too much detail about plans for the study right now, but essentially, my colleague and I want to study the effect game mechanics, such as badges and points, have on student learning and success. This is being looked at with MOOCs more recently and adding game aspects to coursework isn't new, but this particular combination coupled with library instruction for a credit course is an area with a lot of potential. I wrote about using Purdue's Passport for integrating badges in library instruction recently for ACRL TechConnect.

So for those of you who have done IRB, I'm sure you're well aware of the stress and headaches it can cause. There is the human subjects training that must be completed (really glad I did this last summer so I didn't have to worry about it), a ton of forms to fill out, being able to address a million different requirements you might know nothing about (how long to store data? where? how is it protected? opt-in vs. opt-out, etc.). I'm lucky my co-researcher has done this before, and other people on my team can provide guidance, but it's definitely an overwhelming process.

Some things I am learning from the UA IRB process:

  • You can't begin any research if it's tied to a credit class until final grades are posted
  • Students need to opt-in to the study, not opt-out
  • You must store data for at least 6 years (not 5!)
  • There are a ton of different forms you have to submit along with the crazy-long, main course form that you probably weren't even aware of
  • That consent/disclosure form you submit (and you had better submit it) better be tight or you'll pretty much have to re-write the whole thing... luckily, we only have a couple small things to fix

We were initially hoping to send out the disclosure/consent form the first day of class, but since we can't even begin the research until grades are posted, I suppose we have more time and don't have to be as frantic about getting approval ASAP.

I'm almost finished with all instructional design for the badges, and then we will have some library student workers try them out to make sure everything is working ok and instructions are clear. Of course since this is not related to IRB, this data is just for our use in assessment and won't be distributed or published. I'm glad we'll have extra time though to work out any kinks and get students' perspectives.

Back to these revisions!