For years, universities and colleges around the globe have used Sona to easily and ethically connect students to research participation opportunities. Often, though certainly not always (and by no means necessarily), students are able to participate in studies they select into based upon the courses they are taking. Naturally, it is often the case that certain studies are intended not for the entire participant pool, but instead restricted to students in a particular course or particular courses. This is what we mean by “course restrictions.”
When adding a study, researchers and/or administrators can designate that only students in particular courses be allowed to participate. These course restrictions can also be set after a study is already in your Sona Systems site (though we definitely recommend doing this before making the study active!). None of this is new: we’ve made it easy to set course restrictions on each and every study for years now, and these features have worked behind the scenes to make a great deal of published research possible (not to mention many a graduate thesis, poster presentation, PhD thesis, conference paper, and more!).
But now we’re going farther. We’re introducing an all new report you can generate to view, save, and track all course restrictions for all your studies in your Sona Systems site.
Why, you may ask (or, at least, we hope you do), are we adding this to your “Generate Report” options? Well, for starters, consider what happens to course restrictions if a course you’ve already added to your Sona site ends up being closed (or even shut down)? True, once students are adding themselves or are added to your Sona Systems site, class schedules are typically fixed and usually already in progress. In fact, that’s usually the case even when it comes to adding or updating courses for the new semester (let alone by the time students are aded to these courses in Sona)! However, we like to anticipate what can happen, and to expect the unexpected. When we prepare, it means you’re prepared. We like that.
That’s partly why we’ve introduced this new reporting feature. If a course that was already added to your system does end up being closed (or otherwise essentially altered), we don’t want Sona administrators having to check each and every study to make sure e.g., that no researcher’s studies are affected by this change, or that no students are counted as eligible for a study based on a course that no longer exists.
There are less drastic reasons we’ve added Study Course Restrictions to the reports you can generate. Some concern troubleshooting: Perhaps a researcher accidentally added or forgot to add a course restriction and you want to check if this is why you’re inundated with emails. Perhaps you want to double check that standard course restrictions are in place.
Finally, there’s data analytics. This is an all new tool you can use to reveal factors influencing trends in your overall participant pool activity. Course restrictions necessarily create relations between a study and the course or courses it is restricted to. New studies are conducted frequently, but often the courses they are restricted to are not. Nonetheless, even if no study is restricted to more than a class or two, this can easily create a network of connections between researchers, research, students, and courses that all depend upon the study course restriction relations. That’s a lot of data you might want to use to track research trends, correlate with participation, etc. We’ve just made that easier.