Illinois REDCap empowers researchers with launch of new certificate series

7/26/2021 11:11:34 AM

In Spring 2019, Michelle Lore enthusiastically accepted a newly created position as REDCap Application Specialist position at the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute. In collaboration with Research IT and the University Library, her goal was to help researchers across the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus increase their understanding and use of Illinois REDCap. Only two years after its campus-wide launch, the growth and expanded use of Illinois REDCap is “far beyond what I had imagined,” she said.

Lore is now leading a certificate series to address the growing need for more advanced training in REDCap. “I think people who have some experience in REDCap know that there’s so much more there that they just haven’t had time to explore or haven’t felt comfortable exploring on their own.” 

Researchers across campus use Illinois REDCap for various types of data collection and management, and it has been an integral part of the SHIELD infrastructure over the past year. From May 2020 to May 2021, the active users almost tripled, and the number of active projects more than quadrupled. 

The Illinois REDCap team offers workshops during the academic year in partnership with the University Library to help new users understand how to use Illinois REDCap. The workshops provide an overview of REDCap and some basics needed to start a project. Lore says the certificate series will take a deeper look at REDCap and delve into its more complex and interesting capabilities. The goal is to help attendees learn how to design a research project in a way that streamlines and optimizes the way they collect and manage their data. 

During the certificate series workshops, attendees will build a project in REDCap, explore various project level settings, and learn how to review and export data. To provide this in-depth guidance, the REDCap team will select a limited number of applicants for this first cohort. The team is seeking applicants from diverse disciplinary backgrounds who have some knowledge and experience with REDCap, are able to attend all four sessions (held via Zoom), and can explain how they will apply the knowledge they gain from the series to current or upcoming Illinois REDCap projects.

REDCap was developed at Vanderbilt University and continues to improve based on feedback from the researchers who use it. Even though users are notified when upgrades are made, researchers may find they need more knowledge and experience with REDCap before exploring these new features on their own. 
“One of our big goals is to give people comfort with REDCap… and if they have a new research question they can say ‘Oh, I think I might be able to do this in REDCap this way.’ We really want to empower people,” said Lore.

The series is ideal for program coordinators, research lab managers, and advanced graduate students. For graduate students, the certificate can also be a CV/resume builder. Heather Bernardo, Visiting REDCap Specialist, joined the Illinois REDCap team in December 2020 to support SHIELD efforts, and has also helped to grow project build services and enhance user support. “It [the certificate series] is appealing because it is a time for users to be creative and learn things outside of what their PI might expect them to do with REDCap and to think creatively to find solutions to the project.”

Individuals interested in attending the October 2021 certificate series may apply by Aug. 27. Applicants will be notified whether they have been admitted to the series by Sept. 15.