Looking Back…A Recap of Sona Highlights

Published March 18, 2024

Reviewing Progress with Sona: A Recap of Innovations, Improvements, and Important Events

For the first time last year, we had the opportunity to look at a year’s progress, updates, improvements, and more. We’re happy to say that our (now not so new) practice of continually improving and updating our platform means we can once again look back over a year’s worth of progress. So without further ado, let’s begin our look back at the last year:

Hidden Gems for New Admin: Data Diagnostics

Sona’s built-in data diagnostics feature makes taking care of “aged” data easy. Administrators can easily see, for example, whether a large number of researchers haven’t logged in for 3+ years, if over 90% of timeslots are less than a year old, that most of the studies are at least 1-2 years old, and so on.

Because the link to the data diagnostics page isn’t found under the most frequently used dropdown menus, it can be easy to overlook. We decided to put in a much deserved spotlight.

Revamping the P.I. Role with Study Approval Privileges

The Principal Investigator’s role in the research process is to oversee other researchers and their work. We wanted the P.I. role in Sona to better reflect that, and made a major change to P.I. user privileges by enabling the P.I. Study Approval feature.

Pros and Cons of Separate vs. Combined Sites for Mixed Participant Pool Types

If you have both paid participants and participants receiving credit, should you have a combined site or one paid site and one credit-based site? We’ve fielded this question a lot over the years, which made publishing pros and cons of each option something we were happy to provide.

A Look at the “Linked Clicked Date” and More

“Automatic credit granting is supposed to be automatic, so why are participants in online, external studies “awaiting action?” That question, or a variant of it, is one asked frequently enough to devote some time to explaining how this might happen, and how to use the tooltip feature to determine what’s going on and what (if anything) to do about it!

Simplifying Study Sign-ups: Skipping Online Timeslot Selections

We’ve removed an unneeded step to simplify the sign up process. Online studies typically have only one timeslot, which means participants shouldn’t really have to select one. Now, they don’t!

Introducing “Partial” Automatic Approval for SSO-Enabled Sites

“Automatic Account Approval” is no longer simply a Yes/No setting. If your site has SSO enabled, but not required, then you can make the approval process automatic for all users with SSO accounts, and require reviews for the rest!

Blast from the Past with the New Timeslots View

Speaking of the past and looking back, last year we brought back a classic view…with a new twist! We (re)introduced the now current, default timeslots view. In a curious twist that is sometimes the nature of going forward, this one brought us full circle, back to the “past” tab on the Uncredited timeslots page.

An All New Status Column View for Study Table

The new status column on your site’s “View Studies” page puts the most important information about studies in the most useful place. Administrators and researchers can quickly scan the studies table and, using the new status column, quickly determine whether participants will be able to sign-up for a given study.

Changing Subjects: Emphasizing the “Participant” in Participatory Managment

For a long time, we’ve used the term “human subject” whenever we need to refer to participants in the context of things like the privacy policy or other legalistic terms. We thought it time to update our use of terms to be in line not only with our own terminology elsewhere, but best practice recommendations. Now our platform refers to “Human Participants”, a more fitting term to describe individuals signing up to participate in studies using Sona.

LimeSurvey Lifesaver: Upgrading Integration Support with LimeSurvey

Sona supports automatic credit granting with more than 25 online experiment builder and survey platforms. It’s something we’re quite proud of. So when we can make the integration experience better with any one of them, it’s worth noting. And while we didn’t do so via a blog post in this case, you can still check out the results. Just click on the link to see how our LimeSurvey integration page has been updated, providing clearer instructions for an easier integration process.

Past Sign-Up: New Timeslots Message

It’s amazing how much difference a short message can make. This addition to timeslots indicating whether a specific timeslot is past the sign-up deadline shows much of a difference indeed:

Research Reviews: An Ingenious Memory Study Using Sona

There are plenty of great studies that use Sona across multiple disciplines and Interdisciplinary fields. Rarely, though, does a study show us how our software can advance research methods and experimental designs. This study did so, and we felt obligated to share how.

Rapid Fire Releases, On the Fly Fixes, and other Updates by Date

The recap above is just that: A concise, summary. A lot of minor and not so minor updates, changes, and other ways we’ve consistently developed our platform to better serve aren’t listed. Partly, this is because we have an X (formally twitter) account—@SonaSystemsVIP—devoted to providing clients with updates as they happen or before! For clients who follow this private account, what follows will be yet another recap. To those Sona customers who hadn’t yet followed @SonaSystemsVIP updates, some of the items below will likely be news. For customers yet to follow us @SonaSystemsVIP, we’ve provided the most important over posts from the past year or so in one convenient spot.

Announcements like these and others we haven’t included are important and will keep coming, so we recommend that customers subscribe to our VIP X account. It is, after all, specifically made for you!

  • Feb 2023:
    • Updates to Alchemer integration
    • Study date/time now in email subject line for lab studies, in email confirmation and reminder
    • Added better handling of line breaks on prescreen intro/closing text
    • Update to the Forgot Password process so the new login information shows on-screen after being reset, in addition to the email·no need to wait for the email anymore!
  • April 2023:
    • Invite Qualified now shows up on Study Information page for researchers also, not just on prescreen restrictions page
    • New link for administrators added “View Studies” page—if a study has no timeslots, the icon links administrators to that study’s configuration page
    • When Strict Security mode is on, then when doing a reset, it will not reveal if account exists or not
    • Added Student ID number to no-show reports
  • May 2023:
    • Increased Account Security now requires minimum 10 character passwords, and at least 3 of these 4: uppercase letter, lower-case letter, number, symbol
    • Improved handling of 2-digit years entered for birthdate
    • Change in wording from “Human Subjects” to “Human Participants”
    • On batch credit grant for a timeslot where a researcher signs up participants in batch, if a participant is in only one course, the credit will be auto-assigned to that course so they don’t need to assign it
  • June 2023:
    • New option to export all user login data (available in Secure editions only)
    • Administrators can now set a subject line for the email sent via Invite Qualified Participants
    • Added date granted field to Course Credit History report
    • Added credit and study limit checking to batch manual sign-up
    • Expanded list of acceptable special characters in passwords when strict security mode is enabled
    • Granting non-study credit grant now shows amount in success confirmation message
  • July 2023:
    • Change in researcher reminder and uncredited timeslots daily email, so it will not be sent if their account is deactivated
    • Searchable logs of user activity added for those using the Enhanced Security edition
    • Full user activity log in User Management (in Enhanced Security Editions only)
  • August 2023:
    • If you need to cancel upcoming lab study appointments due to an unexpected shutdown (like a hurricane), administrators can click on Uncredited Timeslots and the option will appear there if there are any eligible timeslots. Online study sign-ups will remain
    • Updated text in email to participants when account request is denied, so it does not ask them to request an account again
    • Added direct link to study in study approval email sent to administrator
    • Show PIs’ email on request study approval page when PI approval is on
  • September 2023:
    • Fix to Copy Study anonymous setting when copying and converting external web study to lab study
    • Updated Alchemer/SurveyGizmo integration instructions and implementation
    • Adjust batch limit on Invite Qualified to improve performance
    • Added link to help page on user import page
    • Add participant name to subject line in no-show notification emails to administers
    • Added a Mark All option on Batch User Delete page
    • Added logging when a user’s account is activated or deactivated
  • October 2023:
    • The My Profile page now includes optional note for phone number to researchers/PIs, and notes their phone/office/email will be visible to participants
  • November 2023:
    • Added a new tool to help the administrator troubleshoot SSO login issues·.It’s in User Management when you look up a user
    • Average age added to course summary and system summary reports
    • Course name added to credit completion report when viewing across all courses and multiple course support is off
    • No email sent for parts 2,3,… of multipart online studies before deadline, if availability has passed
  • December 2023:
    • New sorting options on the Study Summary Report, which now allows sorting by PI name, researcher name, and study type
    • Update to the digital signature certificate used to sign participant progress PDF files
    • More detailed logging of some end of semester tasks· available to customers using Secure Edition
    • Batch Study Delete option now has option to Select All on page
  • January 2024:
    • Participants warned of schedule conflicts with other sign-ups on confirmation page, not only after signing up
    • Duplicate Participant Report checks on email address also
    • Add/Update user for admin shows immediate warning when using a User ID that already exists
    • Accessibility fixes to date selector and other pages, including button placement, more help text, and color adjustments
    • ID code more prominent on study reminder emails
    • Settings credits earned/needed for specific participant moved to separate page
    • Recompute Credits option on Course Listings now works when no-shows are enabled and set to increase credit requirements
    • Batch Study Delete remembers sort options after doing deletion
  • February 2024:
    • Added login_id to signups data export (Analysis format)
    • If online credit limits are enabled, page showing participants (to administrators) now shows online credits earned amount
    • On credit reports generated by instructors, login days now included

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