Two faculty in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University – Indianapolis, recently published “Alpha test results for a Housing First eLearning strategy: the value of multiple qualitative methods for intervention design,” an article describing methods and findings related to the alpha testing of eLearning modules developed as part of the Housing First Technical Assistance and Training (HFTAT) program’s development.
Alpha testing is an approach for improving the quality of a product before it is tested in the market through beta testing (i.e. real-world testing) with potential applications for intervention development. Utilizing ten participants in two cities to test the eLearning modules, Drs. Emily Ahonen and Dennis Watson worked with colleagues to collect data through a structured log where participants were asked to record their experiences as they worked through the modules. They also gathered data through focus groups and a brief online questionnaire delivered at the end of each module.
The alpha test provided useful data related to the acceptability and feasibility of eLearning as an implementation strategy, and identified a number of technical issues and bugs. The qualitative methods used also provided unique and valuable information. For example, logs were the most useful for identifying technical issues, and focus groups resulted in high-quality data regarding how the intervention could best be used as an implementation strategy.
The study found that alpha testing is also a valuable step for intervention development and helps reveal issues that would be more difficult to tackle at a later developmental stage. In particular, through a multiple-methods approach, Drs. Ahonen and Watson were able to identify and correct factors which are key to the success of the intervention, and which otherwise might have confused the understanding of outcomes of the intervention in later phases.
With detailed descriptions of implementation strategies and development at a low, this study serves as a resource for researchers interested in the methods and findings related to alpha testing prior to piloting.
Read the full study published in the Pilot and Feasibility Studies Journal of BioMed Central.