Experience Sampling Software vs. Graduate Research Assistant?

Margaret Becker

Experience Sampling Software vs. Graduate Research Assistant?

What is the best option for your Experience Sampling Method (ESM) study?


Monetary costs

Why pay for a data collection tool when you already have a graduate research assistant (GRA) or lab manager available to help out? Fair question. Though the sticker price of a data collection tool may at first appear to be the more pricey option, after diving into the cost breakdown of each, it is clear that a software solution may win out in the long-term - especially for projects using the experience sampling method (ESM), ecological momentary assessment (EMA), ambulatory assessment, ecological momentary intervention (EMI), or daily diary study designs.  

For about 20 hours per week, a typical GRA may cost about $3,200 per month (including fee remissions). For unlimited access to a software platform such as ExpiWell Annual Academic Plus subscription, it is about $250 per month. By choosing the latest in data collection technology for your ESM or EMA study, you are saving $2,950 each month. That’s $11,800 saved per semester!


Ease of use

Participant onboarding is an important factor to keep in mind when choosing how to run your ESM project. Data collection platforms do the heavy lifting for you here by providing participants instructions directly through the app onboarding process. Additionally, platforms, such as ExpiWell, offer enrollment guides, video walkthroughs, and free apps for both iOS & Android to help make the process as smooth as possible for participants. 

By making the participant experience as convenient as possible, response rates increase and dropout decreases. When completing the study is easy and engaging, participants are more likely to provide responses with greater consistency and attention to detail. The end result? Better data.

Time investment

The other hidden cost of running an ESM or EMA study manually (vs. through a data collection platform) is the time investment. Running this type of study every year can require a substantial amount of time from a research assistant, up to 20+ hours per week

This includes a research assistant sending out daily notifications and reminders, syncing multiple spreadsheets, managing participants, etc. All time that could be used on other priorities, such as, running data analysis, doing literature searches, publishing articles, piloting the next project, and so on . By providing research assistants and lab directors a tool to help streamline the administration of the study, you are providing them more time to pursue these other priorities - without sacrificing the efficacy of the protocols.

The ExpiWell system is designed to be intuitive for both the participants and the researcher. For instance,  the total project set up time on ExpiWell is under 1 week. This includes building the surveys, scheduling, enabling automatic notifications, and distribution of the project. 

Setting up a study manually, on the other hand, can take up to 8+ weeks. And this doesn’t even account for the time needed throughout the study to send out the ESM or EMA notifications manually.

Check out this free downloadable for a summary of the different options for your ESM/EMA work!

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