Guidelines on using ODK Collect for data collection

By Kihara Absolomon and Rogena Jason


Table of contents

General Guidelines

Appropriate android devices for data collection

ODK Overview

ODK Collect Overview

Starting a new survey: Filling a form

Sending Finalized form

Editing Saved forms

  1. General Guidelines

  1. Appropriate android devices for data collection

An appropriate android device should be used for data collection. Depending on the collection exercise you will need a device that:

  1. Has an internal GPS module and can record GPS coordinates
  2. Has a camera that can be used to scan 1D barcodes. 1D barcodes are mainly used in labeling of samples. Any device with a back facing camera of 4MP and above is good enough to scan barcodes. It is recommended that the device should have a back facing camera of 8MP. If a survey is not collecting barcoded samples, scanning of barcodes is not needed.
  3. Has a camera that can scan QR codes. QR codes are 2 dimensional barcodes that can encode much more information than 1D barcodes and are much easier to scan than 1D barcodes.
  4. Has a class 2 bluetooth which may be used for communication with external devices when needed eg. An external Bluetooth GPS module or a RFID stick reader.
  5. Has a GSM module that can be used for browsing the internet. The GSM module is primarily for packet data and not for making calls or sending SMS. It is actually frowned upon when using the data collection device to make calls and send SMS.
  6. Has a big enough battery that can be used for a full day of data collection. Tablets generally have a bigger battery than smart phones due to the larger screen size.
  7. Has enough storage space for saving the filled in surveys. This is particularly important when the survey will be capturing images.
  1. ODK Overview

Open Data Kit (ODK) is a group of tools that are primarily used for data collection. ODK is comprised of 5 different systems but only 2 are mainly used, ODK Collect and ODK Aggregate. ODK collect is an application that is installed on the collection device and is primarily used for data collection. ODK Aggregate is a server application which is installed on the server and accepts data from ODK collect. When used together, ODK Collect and ODK Aggregate can be used to collect data from the field and submit the data to a central server. You will mainly use ODK collect which is already installed and configured in the device which has been given to you.

  1. ODK Collect Overview

ODK Collect uses other external applications to perform some very specific tasks. It uses:

Depending on the activity that is being carried out, the necessary applications will be installed in the Android device and will already be configured to be used from ODK Collect. These applications are only used from ODK Collect and are not be used outside independently.

 ODK Collect has 5 main modules which are seen in the picture alongside. These are:

  1. Fill Blank Form: Used to initiate a new survey
  2. Edit Saved Form: For editing a partially filled survey
  3. Send Finalized Form: For sending surveys which have been filled
  4. Get Blank Form: For getting new forms from the server
  5. Delete Saved Form: For deleting saved forms or blank forms

ODK Collect has internal mechanisms for validating the entered responses. Each entered answer is validated when moving from one screen to the next screen.

ODK Collect implements logics which allow only relevant questions to be presented for answering based on previous answers. Eg. If Q1 asks whether a person is a man or a woman and Q2 asks whether the woman is pregnant or not, Q2 will only be displayed if the answer to Q1 is a woman. The inbuilt logics and skips allow only the relevant questions to be asked.

In almost all the questionnaires, most of the questions are mandatory! Using skips and logics of ODK Collect it allows the designers of the form have all the questions as mandatory by presenting only the relevant questions to be answered.

Grouping of questions is vital in the way surveys are designed. When there is a group of questions which concerns a specific entity, eg. an animal, an item or an event, the group of questions will grouped together using the group of feature of ODK. This grouping is useful that it allows a batch action to be applied to a group of questions. eg. In case a group of questions is about a pregnant woman, a single skip logic can be implemented for people who are not pregnant at the time as opposed to skipping questions in the survey.

Starting a new survey: Filling a form

To start a new survey, you need to fill in a new form. This is done by selecting the “Fill Blank Form” module and then selecting the necessary form to fill. This is outlined in detail below:

  1. Discard the changes that were loaded with the form and delete the instance completely
  2. Continue with filling the form if it is the correct form that you were working on until the end.
  1. Ensure that the GPS is turned on on the android device.
  2. You are in an open space with a direct view of the sky and not near tall buildings.
  3. If you try to capture GPS coordinates when the device GPS module is off, ODK Collect will show a warning message.
  4. Captured GPS coordinates should have an accuracy of 5m. ODK Collect will automatically record the GPS coordinates when accuracy of 5m or below is achieved. The maximum accepted accuracy is of 10m.

Sending Finalized form

Once a form has been finalized it is ready for uploading to the server. It is important to note that saving and finalizing a form (in the last page of the survey) will not upload that form to the server. Uploading of the filled in forms to the server is a manual process and should be done at the end of each day preferably in the presence of a supervisor. Uploading of forms requires a good internet connection especially if images were captured when filling the forms or the survey is quite long and a lot of details were captured. To upload finalized forms:

Editing Saved forms

Editing of saved forms is usually not recommended. It is envisaged that all the data that is to captured should be and is captured and recorded at the point of data collection. However at times there is need to edit forms for a number of unforeseen circumstances. Great care should be taken on selecting the form to be edited and also editing the already entered answers as it might lead to loss of the whole dataset as a whole. In many cases please consult and get an approval from your supervisor before editing a saved form. To edit a form:

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