SOTO – System for Online Training and Research
SOTO is a tool to schedule surveys and cognitive tests on the Internet and is created in-house by Instrumentation Engineering. It is suited for conducting studies on large pools of participants without any intervention of a supervisor.
The studies created using SOTO are modular and therefore surveys and cognitive tests can be exchanged easily or be reused in later longitudinal sessions (follow-ups). In order to reduce dropouts when multiple sessions are required, participants can be notified automatically by either email or sms(text) messages whenever it’s time to complete the next session. If required, SOTO can send additional reminders. All this content is tailored to the specific research.
Given the restricted European privacy laws there will be no connection to the participant’s email address and the collected data, and each participant’s email address is removed completely from our servers once participation is terminated. (Either by completing the study or failing to adhere to the required study protocol). The email addresses are only stored temporarily to send invitations or reminders for upcoming sessions and are not used for any other purpose. Longitudinal data will still be linked to earlier sessions via internal codes for data analysis.
There is a lot of flexibility in the scheduling of subsequent sessions. Options for scheduling a session include (but are not limited to): a) a certain time after the invitation to the previous session, b) a certain time after the completing of that session, c) a certain time after starting the whole study, d) a fixed week day (“the 2nd Monday after today), d) a fixed date.
All these timings are personalized for the participants in their own local time zone. So a participant in the UK would get his invitations 1 hour later than someone in central Europe. But both would just perceive them to arrive at 8am.
In the case of a singular session, participants can participate anonymously without even being required to fill out a contact address.
With minimal effort, SOTO can be fully integrated to work with Qualtrics surveys made by the researchers. SOTO will handle the scheduling of the surveys and the GPDR-compliant separation of the research data from the participant’s contact information. Qualtrics in turn will notify SOTO the participant has completed a survey so reminders are no longer required. Data thus collected in Qualtrics will be anonymous automatically.
Together, Qualtrics and SOTO also take care of additional possibilities like a participant failing to meet the inclusion criteria set for a particular study.
SOTO supports studies in a variety of languages. If your participant pool consists of people coming from different parts of the world, a study can be set up to be multlingual. Participants can choose to participate in the study in the language they personally prefer.
As of February 2022, the supported languages for studies are English, Dutch (“jij/u”), German (“du/Sie”), French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Bahasa Indonesian, Levantine Arabic and Simplified Chinese. If you require a different language for your study, it can be added so SOTO can support that language for all future research.
More advanced features allow researchers to create studies where multiple participants can work together as a single unit, a so-called Team. For instance, a Team could be couple of significant others in a relationship study. It could be a superior and his subordinates in a working environment or it could be students working together on a project. Because the individual responses of the participants should be analyzed in light of fellow team members, SOTO tracks their responses together (still anonymously), allowing for team level analysis. It is even possible to have the members influence each other’s task list and scheduling in the study. An example would be a situation where team member 2 cannot go on to the nest task until team member 1 has finished his part.
Using the accompanied maintenance tool, the researcher can monitor the progress of the participants throughout the study. A comprehensible interface shows how many participants are currently still active in the study, and how many have concluded it in the past. Especially in the case of multiple conditions (e.g. an experimental versus a control condition) this can be of major importance. It is also possible to conduct multiple studies simultaneously. Researchers can retrieve the data from their studies in a format that is suited for both SPSS and Excel, amongst others.
The online studies are fundamentally usable on every computer (pc, mac), tablet or smartphone, provided a stable Internet connection is present, and are supported by all major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Edge) used by the subjects.
As a short demonstration, you can do a short Soto study where the aforementioned features are explained in a bit more detail here. This demonstration is only available in English and Dutch.