mEMA has been designed to handle large international studies. The ilumivu team are currently supporting an Experience Sampling study across four countries each which their own language and time zone – Australia, China, Italy, and Germany. We have previously supported projects in Polish, Spanish and Korean.
The challenge is two fold. Firstly, we had to make sure that the Survey Editor would allow the researchers to type in alphabets other than English and then to ensure the characters displayed correctly on both Apple and Android mobile apps. Secondly, we had to make sure all the alerts were sent at the right time in all the different time zones.
Fortunately, the ilumivu system (upon which mEMA is built) was designed to handle this. Every event in the system is stored in UTC but displayed to users in local time according to their device. For instance, a researcher in Australia logging into the system from a web browser can schedule survey alerts to go out to participants at noon in China and Germany. She has to make only one alert schedule and tell the system: “noon”.
When the research participants sync to the system from their phones the schedule is downloaded and converted into local time so they receive the alert at noon wherever they are. When the data are sent back up to the server the researcher can toggle between seeing the timestamps in her own local time, the participant’s local time or in UTC.