Light-Activated Sun Cream App
May was Skin Cancer Awareness month, and on Thursday 28th May a small group from the department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology set-up a display in the Lime Tree Cafe at lunchtime. The event was organised by the central Research Marketing team under the umbrella of 'Research Rocket on Tour' which promotes research straight to the student body.
For us, there were two specific aims:
- to promote our research around Light-Activated Sun Cream
- to raise awareness of the dangers of Sun-Light
In order to help achieve this aim, we decided to trial the use of app that could be demonstrated on tablets and installed on students mobile devices.
An App for Disseminating Research
I've already evaluated custom apps for teaching and learning, and discovered that this medium is very popular with students. This is hardly surprising, given that young people are increasingly using apps and mobile devices, and that they belong to an 'App Culture' that pervades every aspect of their lives.
Although we started building the app just a week before the event, it was possible to adapt both existing materials (powerpoint slides) and new material (an animation and quiz) into the app.
The new animation was created using VideoScribe. This took a couple of hours to create and was very last minute, so it still requires some refinement. However, it does clarify how our sun cream works.
The real stars were the team, who took their iPads or Android tablets and directly engaged with students. I was particularly impressed with Ali and Sharareh who mingled and promoted the app to the customers. The app provided a good vehicle that made it possible to actively engage with young people and it seemed to work really well as a promotional tool.
In all, 28 feedback questionnaires were received from students in the cafe. Most of these were completed between noon and 1pm when there was the most traffic in the Lime Tree.
Apart from anything else, there was a real buzz and excitement amongst the team. At the time, it certainly felt that the app was a success. The evidence also supports this:
Evaluation Results: Survey-Lime-Tree-2015
Although it is a relatively small sample of students, the results indicate that the team did a fantastic job promoting our research, and the main message appears to have been conveyed:
The team from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. From left to right:
Ali Miri, Olivier Reelfs, Kunal Tewari, Ian Eggleston, Charareh Pourzand, Sharareh Houshmandyar, Keith Brown, Ruggero Dondi
Also, many thanks to Maree Perkins from the central Research Marketing team for her support and laughter!
Dissemination of research is now a common requirement imposed by funding bodies. This is often achieved by the use of twitter, blogs or web sites. The use of apps in this context represents a new approach that could appeal to a different type of audience and extend the reach of existing provisions, both for public engagement and to enhance the international reputation of the university for world-class research.
Our Suncream app is currently only available from the internal app-store that is private to staff and students. However, the placement of apps in the global app-stores such the Apple App-Store and Google Play also represents an opportunity for further exploration and evaluation. Given that the App-Factory makes it quick and easy to create apps, I am keen to further exploit apps for the promotion and dissemination of research, both internally and externally.
Based on the success of this event, we are now aiming to repeat the experience later this year with an enhanced version of the app. Our awards winning alumni Cristina Dumitru has agreed to do produce some additional animations that will be incorporated into the app over the summer. I can't wait.