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New mobile HEAT application

I’ve recently been rewriting the mobile HEAT application and I now have a first version ready for people to test out. You can get the app from Google Play for installing on you Android phone. As it’s just a first version, I’d really appreciate any feedback (either email me directly or post a comment below), which is also why I’ve just posted it up here, rather than making it available on the Google Play store – which I’ll do once it’s been tested a little more.

Few notes comments on how to use the app and what it does:

  • As with the previous version, you’ll need a MQuiz login account (though you can register for this directly in the app). So you do need an active internet connection on your phone for this step.
  • Unlike the previous version, this app comes with no course content. This was one of the main reasons for rewriting this app: to decouple the content from the app. So after you’ve first logged in, click on the ‘manage modules’ button and you can get a list of the available modules you can install, so you can select which content you’d like to download. You’ll also need an active internet connection for doing this, though I have built in a way in which you can just put the course package directly on the phone SD card and it will auto install.
  • Once you’re logged in and have downloaded some content, an active internet connection is no longer needed.
  • For testing out the video content (in the “video demo” course), the videos are not included in the course download package (as it makes the download packages too large). If you’d like to test the video content, please download the .m4v files and place them all in the /mtrain/media/ directory on the phone sd card.

There are 3 main areas I’d really appreciate feedback on:

  1. Tracking: as you navigate through the content (play videos and take assessment exercises) the app records your activity to submit back to the server (for example, so your course tutor/supervisor can see how you’re doing). The app tries to do this whenever you complete an activity (so connects to the internet at this point), but it may be that you’re offline at the time. Note that a text page is only considered as being completed if you have spent at least 3 seconds on the page before moving to the next one (to at least give some pretence that you may actually have read the content ;-)). To cover the possibility that you may be offline when using the app, but you still want your activity logged, the app also installs a service to try to connect once an hour to submit your activity, even if you’re not using the app. I’m a little unsure that this is the best approach, since I’m not too keen on applications connecting to the internet in the background, but I haven’t yet thought of a better way to handle this. I may just add a preference to allow you to decide if this service is allowed to connect or not. But any comments/thoughts on this appreciated.
  2. Navigation: once inside a course module, I’d like some feedback on the navigation between the activities for each section in the course. Currently you can’t see a full list of all the activities for a given section, without clicking on the previous/next arrow buttons, as I wanted to avoid the user needing to go through another list selection page to get to the activity, but I’m not sure that what I’ve done so far is quite right.
  3. App name: I’m not too keen on the app name ‘mTrain’, so any suggestions for alternative names welcome!

In the next days, for those of you who don’t have an Android phone to test this on, I’ll post up a video of the app in action.

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Mobile training course content and quizzes

We’ve recently been looking at how we can embed some of the Open University HEAT training content (for HEWs in Ethiopia) onto mobile phones and have these integrated alongside interactive self assessment questions (SAQs).

We restricted the content to just putting the introduction, learning outcomes, summary and SAQ for each of the study sections, otherwise there is far too much text content for users to comfortably read on screen – so this is designed to supplement (rather than replace) their existing course manuals.

The quizzes can be taken anytime, whether they have an internet (GRPS) connection or not, and results are submitted back to the mQuiz server (or stored for later upload if no connection is currently available). All the content and quizzes are stored directly on the phone. Users need an internet connection to initially log in, but once logged in they won’t need to re-enter their details (unless they log out or change their password).

Their SAQ results are stored on the phone, along with a ranking for how they have performed against others who have taken this assessment exercise.

Here is a quick demo video of this running on my mobile:

The next steps are to test embedding video and audio content.

Initial HEW training with smartphones

I just posted this up on our Digital Campus blog:

Last weekend Araya and Florida ran the first training course for Health Extensions Workers (HEWs) who will participate in our feasibility study. We are starting with a very small group of HEWs – just 5 in this first training session – and the 2 day training consisted of:

  • the basic functions of the HTC hero phones, contacts, making calls, messaging and switching between Amharic and English keyboard layouts
  • charging the phones using the solar lamps and chargers we provided – as most of the HEWs do not have electricity in their Health Posts
  • using the EpiSurveyor client application for entering and sending data, plus using the GPS
  • practice completing and sending the Ante Natal Care protocol forms set up in EpiSurveyor

This first training is simply to get the HEWs used to using the phones, find out what problems and issues they may have, especially with battery life, recharging, completing forms etc – at this stage we’re not looking to collect real data – though we hope they can practise using the forms with real patients.

The feedback we have received is that the training went very well, the HEWs seem very and eager to learn how to use the phones and soon became quite comfortable using them. Over the coming months we’ll introduce the phones to another couple of small groups of HEWs and we’ll find out what challenges may exist and the feasibility for using smartphones for protocol and data collection in this environment.

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