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Ohio State students, professors plan trip to Ghana with iPads in tow

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OSU students traveled to Ghana in an effort to help a district deal with population growth. Credit: Courtesy of Joseph Campbell

OSU students traveled to Ghana in an effort to help a district deal with population growth.
Credit: Courtesy of Joseph Campbell

Some Ohio State students and professors are trying to make the lives of people in Ghana a little easier by using iPads to conduct research.

The Ghana “Sustainable Change” program aims to provide district planning that is “sensitive” to the local culture in order to help the Offinso North District of Ghana deal with population growth, according to its website.

The program is in its fourth year this semester, with students set to travel to Ghana from May 9 to 23 to work on various projects and research.

Joseph Campbell, research associate from School of Environment and Natural Resources at OSU, is co-running the Ghana program this year with Kim Burton, assistant professor in the Knowlton School of Architecture.

Campbell said the program is more than a typical study abroad trip.

“I almost don’t like to use the term study abroad because (the trip does) a lot more than that,” Campbell said.

According to the Office of International Affairs’ website, the Ghana Sustainable Change program costs $3,726 in addition to OSU tuition per student. Campbell said more than 60 students have gone on the trip in the past three years.

The topics students research include housing, cultural planning, health care and water, according to the website.

Last year was the first year iPads were used on the trip, Campbell said.

“Basically (students) put the survey questions … about their homes, their houses, education, and things like that … on the iPads,” Campbell said. “And what they can do is to go to (a person’s) house and take (pictures) of the house (on) the iPad and fill out the survey that would go right into the database.”

GPS is another feature that can be used on iPads for research.

“(IPads) have GPS units, which allows them to locate where these (houses) are geographically on the map,” Campbell said. “So you could know which had what answers to different survey questions.”

Campbell said with iPads, the whole process of helping the community cope with population growth is much easier and more efficient.

Campbell said some of the accomplishments over the last two years have been remarkable.

“We’ve worked on over two dozen different development projects there, some of which including the development of the base map,” Campbell said.

Campbell said a base map is a map of where all the critical infrastructure is in the community.

“We’ve looked (at) the equality of housing for villages, neighborhoods compared with how many people are living there, who has access to health care facilities, to education, all those things, so basically like demographic information,” Campbell said.

Some students who have gone on the trip in years past said they enjoyed seeing people’s reactions when they arrived.

“As soon as we arrived at the village, someone sent out a signal that there were visitors,” said Monica Baker, a second-year graduate student in health administration who went on the trip in 2013. “So people would just come running and some people would come running with these plastic chairs and they set them (chairs) in a circle for the visitors to sit together to have conversations.

“They are just very welcoming,” Baker said. “Very, very welcoming.”

One comment

  1. Hi,

    Glad to read about this innovative program. How do you deal with IRB issues around this type of research? For example, do you get informed consent for all the photos?
    Also, how are the data shared with the stakeholders in Ghana?

    Rebecca Stoltzfus
    Professor and Provost’s Fellow for Public Engagement
    Cornell University

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