Important factors to consider with recruitment include identifying participants that meet the inclusion criteria and communication. An advantage of remote testing is the ability to create new subject pools. As participants are not isolated to a geographical area, there is greater opportunity for diversity in the sample group. How a researcher recruits participants should be guided by factors such as sample size, geographic region, and any additional required details.Identifying participantsmay make use of the following platforms and approaches:
* Existing subject pools on lab and institution levels
* Family and friends of lab members
* Via social media, newsletters, and other advertisements
* Patients at a local clinic
Communicating with potential participantsoccurs on a continuum and can include emailing, talking on the phone, talking via a secure video call, text messaging, and automatic messaging to participants via various platforms.Email communication provides participants with a written version of the study’s details and allows potential participants time to consider their answers to eligibility screening questions and whether or not they would like to proceed with the consenting process. Alternatively, emailing back and forth with participants can be time-consuming. Examples of email templates include an initial recruitment email describing the study, a recruitment email for existing participants in the lab or institution’s subject pool, a follow-up email for interested participants that includes eligibility questions, a confirmation email, an instructions email, a reminder email, a sorry-we-missed-you email if the participant forgets about their scheduled participation time, a post-study payment email, and a thank-you email for the individual’s participation.Phone or video call communications allow for speedier delivery of information and a real-time opportunity for participants to ask questions and get an appointment scheduled. If you elect to communicate with participants via telephone, anonymous, encrypted, or platform-based phone numbers are encouraged for use to avoid distributing your personal phone number to participants.Software programs can assist in providing automatic and scheduled communications with potential participants. For example,Gorillacan provide automatic replies to participants. Scheduling platforms and calendars such asTimeTapandOutlook Calendarallow for the researcher to input curated reminder emails to be sent automatically to participants at specified times. If Outlook Calendar is used, keep in mind that the Outlook account needs to be open for that reminder to send.
The use of Institutional Review Board-approved templates for these communications, particularly in the initial recruitment stage, is suggested to ensure that participants are receive the same, fair, straightforward descriptions of the study.
Consenting can be performed in person, over the phone, or using a video platform. There may be institutional considerations based on each Institutional Review Board regarding which are preferred and allowed.Video platformscommonly used for consenting include:
Electronic consent (henceforth referred to ase-consent) platforms collect the participant’s signature remotely. This eliminates the need to print consent forms, obtain in person signatures, and email forms back and forth. These platforms can house each form needed, including the consent form, HIPAA form, assent form, intake form, and demographics form.Obtaining electronic consentmay be facilitated by the following platforms:
* G Suite
Additional options for consent may be a checked box stating that when the participant clicks the “next” button, they consent and agree to the terms stated on the page. For this option, an important consideration is how much documentation is required for consent.Signaturescan be collected by:
* Emailing forms and asking for scanned copy with a signature
* Typed signatures
* Trackpad signature through e-consent platforms
Like in person testing, there are special considerations for pediatric testing. Assent forms can be signed using the same platforms as forms for adult patients. Children may not always be visible on the webcam during consenting, which makes it difficult for a researcher to identify body language that is associated with a child removing their consent. Should the intake process be lengthy, the child may need a break in order to refocus. The consenting session should also occur at a time when there are minimal distractions in the room.
Instructions for the study can be provided in many ways. These can be typed up in a document and emailed to participants, laminated and included in a remote testing kit, or mailed to participants. Verbal instructions via a phone or video call can also supplement written instructions.Accessibility is critical when providing instructions so that participants fully understand the task in which they are partaking. Consider writing instructions at a 2nd grade reading level so potential participants, regardless of literacy level, can clearly understand what the study involves. Videos may be useful as a supplement for demonstration purposes. Ensure the text on the instruction documents is of a large enough font size for individuals to read easily.
Consider using both text and visuals in instructions. This may involve listing step-by-step instructions along with screenshots of the programs used and/or diagrams of the study’s setup. For children, cartoons may be helpful in conveying the main points. Instructions should also include reminders about how long each component is expected to take, any environmental modifications the participant may need to make (e.g., avoiding the washing machine running if the environment needs to be quiet), and contact information if the participant has questions.
There are many professional considerations on the researcher’s end when engaging in remote consenting, including the modality of the consent process, confidentiality, whether or not a witnessing signature is required, ways to reach potential participants who do not have access to Internet or technological resources, and whether or not consent forms should be sent to the potential participant for review prior to the consenting call.Confidentialitymay be protected with the following procedures:
* Consent while alone in a closed room
* Make sure the background is quiet
* Wear headphones
* Assure the potential participant that you are the only one seeing and hearing him/her
* Using a blank wall as a background
* Blurring or add a custom background
* Positioning yourself with windows or lighting in front of you
* Asking ahead of time if the potential participant would benefit from captions
Delivery of Materials (If Applicable)
Take-home materials can be distributed in a variety of ways. Materials can be shipped from the lab or an online ordering system such as Amazon, dropped off at doorstep by research staff, or sent electronically (such as in downloading computer software).Shipment can be useful for getting materials to participants who are not in close proximity to your lab.Distribution of testing materials by lab staff can be useful for reaching participants in close proximity. Research staff and the participant can plan a time ahead of time for drop-off of equipment, allowing the participant a period of time (e.g., 24 hours) to complete the experiment before contacting the research staff for pickup of materials.Sanitation and social distancingmay require you to:
* Wear a face mask and gloves when exchanging materials in person
* Exchange materials by arranging with the subject to leave (or retrieve) items from an accessible location (e.g., outside of their door)
* Include sanitation products with the take-home materials
* Following material use, sanitize all surfaces of the materials with sterile alcohol prep pads and set aside to dry before use
In remote testing, many times the researcher is removed from the session. If participants have questions or difficulties with consent, intake forms, or accessing the materials for the study, they will need a point of contact within the lab. On-call troubleshooting assistance can be available via email, video call, phone call, or by text dependent on the institution. Video calls allow the participant to share their screen with the researcher. This can be a useful tool to rapidly resolve the problem. While these are viable options during business hours, it may be necessary for a lab member to be available after hours depending on when the participant completes the study.
Challenges unique to remote testing may include internal factors related directly to the participant. Considerations are participant compliance with instructions, familiarity level with the technology, strength of the WiFi signal, and additional considerations for pediatrics. More information on this subject can be found in (link section of Wiki).
Type of payment and documentation of time should be considered when determining reimbursement of participants. Reimbursement for remote testing can be similar to those used in labs in person, or they can be entirely electronic. Most electronic payment methods simple to use and provide the researcher with a notification when they have been received by the participant.
Gift card (e.g., Visa gift cards, other electronic gift cards)
This form of payment can restrict the participant to using their earned funds solely at one business. Visa gift cards remove this limitation but cost more than the amount disbursed to participants.
Not all participants may have access to the payment method. Requiring a participant to create an account with a third-party service may not be the most user-friendly option.
This method may be restrictive due to institutional policy as they require a great amount of personal information prior to sending.
Each participant is entered following completion and a name is selected. Could be useful when time spent on the study cannot be verified.