Actively and continuously engaging users is essential to drive a living lab that supports research projects. When a project identifies the need for users, whether it is to conduct user research or usability tests of innovative health and well-being mobile apps, COLABORAR should promptly provide users. Often we recruit the same user multiple times, if he/she fits in the inclusion criteria. Our statistics show that each participant have participated in 2.7 activities in average since the project started in November 2011. This implies that we are able to maintain the users in the network and it is one of the biggest challenges of managing a living lab.Throughout the last 8 years we tried and enhanced some strategies. Here are some of the lessons that have helped us being able to maintain volunteers “actives”, that is, willing to be invited to take part in research.
1 – Show appreciation of the importance of their contribution to research
2 – Maintain contact
3 – Building trust
We are pretty sure these tips will help you to successfully manage a living lab.
COLABORAR decided to celebrate the completion of 8 years of Fraunhofer AICOS’ own living lab, organizing a social gathering. Volunteers, researchers and the COLABORAR coordinator discussed together the current activities and the aspects volunteers enjoy the most and the least.
Over the last 8 years, with the help of volunteers, mainly from Porto, COLABORAR has supported more than 3000 research activities. Many people have contributed their time to enable researchers collect users’ feedback about innovative technologies for self-care and well-being. Moreover, they made possible an environment of discussion, share and social gathering that promotes the understanding of how older adults live, as well as their habits and needs.
This month we celebrate the 8th anniversary of COLABORAR, marking the 8th birthday of COLABORAR as a user network for gathering researchers and users.
Celebrating 8 years of COLABORAR makes us inevitably think back to early November 2011, when we were getting ready to initiate the project in Porto. We did the preparation work regarding administrative procedures to comply with the research regulations and good practices. Practicalities involving people visits, such as transportation, space and timing to fit users were also organized. Local social organizations were searched and approached to take part in an innovative project that would promote the contact of tech researchers with older adults. The aim was collect data about habits or needs, explore ideas and evaluate prototypes with representative users.
Recruiting older adults, mostly vulnerable to digital exclusion or with low confidence in using technology, was a challenge. However, they were willing to listen to our research proposal and then decided to take part. Techy users joined the network as smartphones and tablets were increasingly available. The demands of studies and their related inclusion criteria driven us to establish more partnerships. The online application form enabled geographically distant institutions to join the network. This resulted in a bank of 1100 participants.
COLABORAR has succeeded beyond our expectations. We will take this moment to celebrate the user network COLABORAR and all we have achieved. On behalf of the entire team, thank you to everyone who has joined us over the past 8 years. You helped us doing the following:
We are sharing the steps we follow when it comes to preparing for the recruitment of research participants for a usability session. Participant recruitment can be difficult, especially for a researcher just getting into Human Centered-Design, so we are sharing a few things that we always do to make the recruitment effective and easier.
These are the 4 steps:
1 – Define target users
The participants’ characteristics depends on the context of the study and the target users of the technology in study. For example, you may need active older adults who still are engaged in many physical or social activities and are technology proficients. Or it could be useful for you to gain insights from older adults who not usually engage with technology.
2 – Plan the test materials
The materials you are planing to use in a usability session for users to interact with should be taken into account when you recruit participants. paper prototypes are a good option to use with non-proficient users, because they eliminate the barrier of using a smartphone or a tablet. Thus, participants will be able to concentrate on understanding the workflow and focus on the tasks. On the other hand, when you are planning to conduct a usability test in the validation phase of the technology and therefore more functional and interactive prototypes should be used, proficient users are required.
3 – Provide context
Explaining the aim of the project briefly, as well as the materials to be used, day, time and duration of the session is very important when approaching a potential participant. This information allow participants to have an overall understanding of what the research is about, why you are doing it and what you expect from him/her. Bear in mind that you should emphasize that there are not good and bad answers, you just need him/her opinion.
4 – Pay attention to national holidays and festive seasons
Older adults often take mini-holidays and city breaks, usually close to a national holiday, weekend or festive season so to they can spend time with family relatives who still work. Therefore, it is not a good idea scheduling test sessions in this periods. Adapt your schedule to the participants’ availability, providing several options in the calendar.
These are practical tips that you can use in your next recruitment for a usability session. Let us know if you find it useful by contacting us (use the contact form).
In a research center where technology for senior citizens is designed and developed, to include them in the research process is essential to produce innovative technology for well-being and quality of life of the elderly.
Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS‘ Living Lab brings together researchers and senior citizens, promoting their interaction through partnerships with organizations in the community. Day-care centers, municipalities, senior residences, among other, adhered to this initiative. The Living Lab includes the voices of the elderly and facilitates the integration of their preferences into the technology that aims to match their needs. Hence, we aim for future technologythat acts as a companion and a tool that is truly easy to use. Researchers and senior citizens are building technology that in the future will enable older adults to keep their autonomy and participation both in family and in society.
More than 1000 senior citizens already joined the Living Lab COLABORAR. If you would like to join the group, please sign up here.
Whether you are 18 or 80 years old, be part of innovation.
COLABORAR promotes a research approach that brings together scientists and stakeholders that have knowledge about a particular issue. It could be in the area of social assistance, healthcare services, public transportation or urban planning. Accordingly, social workers, healthcare professionals, ageing specialists and citizens are encouraged to engage in science. This is as simple as share their needs, priorities and preferences.
International organizations reccomend this collaborative model of research with the aim of improving outcomes. We are certain that our research is more valuable when it addresses the concerns of patients, professionals and users.
Be part of this initiative and influence the research we do. Shape technologies and technological services you will use. Your oppinion is important. To voluntarily engage in research, fill in the contact form.
We are happy to have achieved the milestone of 3000 user research and testing sessions!
In the last 7 and a half years, COLABORAR supported 3000 user research activities. Requirements gathering, user interviews, diary studies, prototype testing, card sorting, focus groups, in-person usability studies, surveys and pilot studies are the activities carried out.
The COLABORAR team could not be more glad. We learned many things during this time regarding the recruitment of people for research and testing, as well as about carrying research with users. For the next years, we expect to double this milestone!
Psychologists often collect and analyse large amounts of data from their patients in their clinical practice. At Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, an engineering student is developing a mobile app to support psychologists in their job.
Sixty COLABORAR volunteers made an important contribution to science by taking part in a session with a psychologist. The psychologist, also a volunteer, applied some psychology methods and instruments to evaluate each person.
The study received approval from an independent ethics committee. In the end of the study, participants will receive an individualized report provided by the psychologist. Many thanks to all participants for being so kind to participate in research! Your help adds value to technology, since real data are used in its development.
A longitudinal study on smartphone use by older adults in Porto, coordinated by Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS‘ Human-Centered Design team, is being set-up. Participants were recruited by COLABORAR and are ready to begin this longitudinal study.
Using a qualitative research approach, researchers of the Human-Centered Design team of Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS are starting a longitudinal study of over a one-year. This study aims to better understand how people use their smartphone and the possible changes in the patterns of its use over the time.
Participants will use a costumized senior-friendly smartphone app that enables them to perform common mobile tasks such as sending messages, make calls and taking photos. Emergency calls and help requests are also available. They can use the medication reminder app, as well as a navigational application. Smartphone-based monitoring of older adults is part of this study; for this purpose, activity level monitoring and fall detection apps are included. This monitoring is made possible through the use of a wearable device — the GoLiveClip. In addition, users can receive remote help from a caregiver who will use a web application.
The modules of the app won several prizes: Google, Vodafone, Zon and World Summit Award Mobile. All modules of the app were developed according to the needs of older adults and were tested by COLABORAR volunteers. Data collection will be made remotely in natural settings and every three months through in-person evaluations at Fraunhofer AICOS. This study will enable to understand how older adults use tools to prevent isolation, promote their autonomy, safety and quality of life.
COLABORAR recruited more than 50 older adults interested in participating in this study. They are enthusiasts about technology, although not all of them own a smartphone. This enables us to have individuals with different digital skills in the sample, making the sample more representative of the population of older adults.
COLABORAR attended the “Ethics Committee of the University of Porto Day” on April 11 at Salão Nobre of Oporto University Rectorate building.
The new Academic Code of Ethical Conduct of the University of Porto was offically presented in this event. It is of our interest to fully comply with the highest ethical standards and regulations regarding ethical issues in research. Our aim is to maintain excellence and integrity in conducting research, respecting the rights and dignity of others.
In this event we got to know the general principles to which we intend to adhere when conducting research activities. We were presented with a paper copy of the ethics code, which will be made available in digital format as well.
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