there are situations where online web surveys are just not the way to go. Or not the only way you want to reach your target population. Imagine you want to interview persons in their households, patients in a waiting room or in a hospital.
You could use a tablet pc with an internet connection and do face-to-face interviews using limesurvey. However, a mobile internet connection is nothing to rely on. Furthermore, in hospitals you might not even be allowed to use a mobile internet connection.
What to do?
There are various free or commercial solutions for doing face2face interviews offline (or on the go) but I think it would be really MUCH nicer to be able to do this with the software that already proved to be fantastic , you already know and without programming and maintaining the same survey again in a different software package.
So how could this be done using Limesurvey?
With this post I would like to share my thoughts and some (potential) solutions. I also hope to start a general dicussion on the topic and hear from other users' experiences. In the long run, tested and working solution should then be described in the WIKI.
Local Limesurvey installation
On the device that should be used for offline face2face interviews, Limesurvey is run in an offline web environment (eg., Appache, PHP, MySQL etc). Answers to surveys are stored locally. This could be a netbook running XAMPP and limesurvey. BUt some people seem to have managed on android as well.
After the data collection (maybe same survey on multiple offline machines) is complete, the answers are exported using Limesurvey'S VV-export function. These VV-files can then be imported/collected on one "master-machine" into one central database containing all the answers. This approach has already been described in more detail: http://www.marketresearchtechnology.com/content/how-optimize-limesurvey-surveys-smartphones-and-tablets-part-4
Advantage: Works. All online feature are available offline. Disadvantage: Requires access and rights on target machine. Large system, can not be sent via email. Not platform independent. VV-export/import can still be cumbersome, Devs still work on making this easier.
Running a complete web environment might not always be feasible because of missing access to or rights on the target machines. A solution based on just a few files that could also be sent by email would be much more desirable. That is where the next two suggestions/solutions come into play:
Exporting survey as HTML-page and eMailing responses
This method is based on saving the html page of your survey and rerouting the data stream that contains the participants' answers to your email program (when the participant hits the "submit" button).
Recipe: In the survey options, choose "all questions on one page". Take the survey and save the page with your questions (Firefox: save page as...).
In the HTML page, change the form/post command so the answers are mailed "action=mailto:email@example.com". That is: saved in a locally installed email-program until the device is online again and then mailed to a central location or stored. This modified HTML+support files can then be distributed to various devices for survey taking. Later, the exported responses contained in the emails can be imported using limesurvey's RPC function "add_response". I have nearly finished a PHP-script which allows selecting and importing multiple of those response files in one go. Will post more when it's ready.
Advantage: seems to work (still testing), easy to implement, files to distribute are just a few kilobytes, apparently platform independent.
Disadvantage: can't get the datepicker(date/time question) to work. Validation of answers can be tricky. Everything has to be on one page.
Exploiting new HTML5 features
HTML5 provides functions to make websites usable offline. Website components are cached and can work offline in the browser. Answers/forms are saved locally until the internet connection is back and sent then. Keyword for google here is "cache manisfest". I have tried to modify an exported survey page (HTML) but could not make this work. I am not an HTML programmer, so others might like to give this approach a try. If this WOULD work with modified Limesurvey output, the Devs may consider to add native support or it could be implemented using limesurvey's templates?
Advantages: Easy for the user, platform independent, files to distribute are just a few kilobytes.
Disadvantage: Not working (yet). Just an idea...
Why not write an an android app that parses Limesurvey's .lss files, displays the survey, collects data and sends it to the central limesurvey installation when an internet connection is available (or stores it locally until one is available)?
Well, probably because this involves a lot of work and maintenance.
ok...hope this was useful to someone. Last but not least: Thanks to the developers for working on this great project!
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