Ethica’s Notifications functionality allows you to create and send customized notifications, whether automated or manually, to the researchers in your team or the participants. Before sending a notification, you need to specify the recipients, set the notification trigger, define when the notification should be sent, and a few other settings. All of these are combined into a Notification Template, which Ethica uses to send one or more notifications. In this article, we will explore this functionality in depth.
Currently, Ethica supports two types of notifications:
- 1.Participation Notifications: These notifications are related to the participation events of the study. At the moment, they can be configured to be sent when a participant is invited to the study, or when he or she enrolls in the study.
As its name implies, a Notification Template is a template which defines when notifications should be sent, what should be the content, to whom it should be sent, among other configurations. In almost all cases you need to create a notification template to send a notification. The only exception is sending one-off notifications which is explained at the end of this article.
There are two ways to create a Notification Template. First, you can go to the Notifications page and click on the Notification Templates tab. There, you can create, edit, and delete all the Notification Templates in your study, whether Participation or Activity templates.
Alternatively, you can go to the Activities page, choose an activity, and then click on the Notification Templates tab. There, you can create, edit, link, and unlink only the notification templates related to the current activity. This makes it simpler for you to configure notifications when you are creating your activity.
To access this page, click on the Notifications from the left-side panel of your dashboard, and then choose the Notification Templates. Here you can create and manage all the notification templates of your study:
Notification Template preview
Clicking on the Create Template button shows you a dialog similar to the following. This dialog contains parameters needed to create a notification template:
Creating Notification Template
We explain each parameter in depth below.
You can assign a label to each template. The labels are only used to better identify the templates on the list.
You can specify who will receive the notifications. The recipients can be either Participant or Researcher. If you choose the Participant, the notification will be sent to the relevant participant. If you choose Researcher, you will need to specify which researcher.
Here you need to set what will trigger the notification. The available options include:
- Study Invitation: This template will be used when you invite a new participant to the study. If, at the time of inviting the participants, you have not defined a Study Invitation Notification Template for your study, Ethica creates one by default. Note that this notification can be only sent via email. That’s because at the time of inviting a participant to your study, email is only information Ethica has from the invited participant. Also, while all email notifications require participants to have verified their email first, Study Invitation templates are an exception. Here we assume the participant email entered by the researcher is a valid address.
- Participant Joined: The template is used when a new participant enrolls in the study. This can be used to either send a welcome email to the participants, or to send a notification to the research staff and let them know that a new participant joined the study. Similar to Study Invitation, Participant Joined notifications can only be sent through email.
- Session Released: The template is used when a new activity session is prompted to a participant.
- Session Completed: The template is used when the prompted session is completed. For example in case of survey activities, a survey session is completed when the participant responds to all the questions and submits the answers.
- Session Expired: The template is used when the prompted session expires. If a participant does not complete the session within the allocated time window, the session will be considered an Expired Session.
- Session Canceled: The template is used when the prompted session is canceled. A session is marked as canceled when a participant explicitly indicates that they do not want to continue responding to a given session from a given activity.
Offset allows you to set how long before or after the event the notification must be sent.
Note that only Session Released and Session Expired events can have negative offset values. This is because Ethica can send notifications before an event only if it knows when the event will happen beforehand. In case of these two events - Session Released and Session Expired - Ethica knows ahead of time when a session should be released or when a particular session expires. So, it is only for these two events that Ethica supports negative offset values.
In this field, you can specify the mediums through which Ethica should send the notifications. We currently support three mediums:
- Email: Recipients, whether participant or researcher, need to verify their email address before they can receive email notifications.
- SMS: Recipients need to verify their phone number to receive SMS notifications. Also, this will incur additional cost on your study, and may incur additional charges on the recipient as well. To enable this medium for your notifications, please contact Ethica Support.
- In-App: Recipients should have the Ethica app installed on their phone to get the In-App notifications. As the Ethica app is only designed for participants, this notification medium is used for the study participants and cannot be used for the research staff.
For each of the selected mediums, you also need to write the content of the notification. For email, this will be a subject and a body of the mail. For in-app, this will be a title and a description. For SMS, this will be the content of the message.
After taking care of the fields above, press Create and your Notification Template will be created and immediately becomes active.
In the Activity Editor, you can create Notification Templates that belong to activity-related events (Session Released, Session Completed, Session Expired, and Session Canceled). To do this, after navigating to the Activity Editor, tap on the Create Template button at the top-right corner to create a new Notification Template. The process of creating a Notification Template here is similar to the one we already explained for the Notifications page. You should keep in mind that creating a template in the Activity Editor will immediately link it to the current activity. This will be explained in more detail in the next section.
Creating Notification Template in Activity Editor
By default, activities in Ethica have no notifications. So the participant does not know she or he has a new activity unless they happen to open the Ethica app at the right time. This is of course not ideal, and in almost all cases, you want to notify your participants to complete the activity.
To do so, you must create a Notification Template and then link that to your activity in your study. While this may appear to be cumbersome, it can be very useful in larger studies as it helps you avoid creating identical Notification Templates for each activity.
To give you an example, let's say that you have four surveys in your study. You want your participants to be notified whenever a new survey is out. In such a case, instead of making a Session Released Notification Template for each one of the surveys, you can simply create one Notification Template and link it to all the surveys in your study.
There are two ways to link a notification template to a given activity. Firstly, if you create your notification template using the Activity Editor, the template will be linked to that activity by default.
Linking and unlinking a Notification Template
Alternatively, you can manually link an already-created Notification Template to an activity. In the Notification Templates section of the Activity Editor, you will see two tables: one for the templates already linked to the current activity, and another one for potential templates that can be linked. By tapping the link button on each row of the second table, as shown in the above image, that particular notification template gets linked to your activity. Doing so will move the template to the table above. Similarly, you can unlink a notification template from your activity by clicking on the unlink icon on the first table.
You can edit or delete the Notification Templates in your study as needed. While editing a Notification Template can be done in both the Notifications Page and the Activity Editor, you can only delete Notification Templates in the Notifications Page. This is because each notification template may be linked to multiple activities, and deleting it from the Activity Editor for one activity can inadvertently modify other activities in your study.
The following table can further clarify what operations is accessible at what part of the researcher dashboard:
Create a NT
Edit a NT
Delete a NT
Link a NT
To delete or edit a Notification Template in the Notifications Page:
- Go to the Notifications Page and choose the Notification Templates tab.
- Click on the 3-dot button that you see on the right side of the table.
- Choose the Edit and Delete options to initiate the related operation.
Editing and deleting a Notification Template in the Notifications Page
To edit a Notification Template in the Activity Editor:
- Go to Activities Page, choose an activity and open the Activity Editor, and then go to the Notification Templates tab
- Click on the Edit button from the Actions column.
Editing a Notification Template in the Activity Editor
Keep in mind that you need to be careful when making changes to a Notification Template via the Activity Editor. Since a Notification Template might be linked to several activities within the same study, the modifications that you make to a linked template will affect the other activities as well. When you make changes to a linked template, the changes will be applied to all activities immediately.
If you open the Notifications page in your researcher dashboard, and click on the Notifications tab, you can see the list of all notifications Ethica has sent to your study participant, and the list of notifications that are scheduled to be sent in the future, based on your Notification Template configurations. As you can see in the image blow, for each notification, you can see:
- The notification ID
- The intended recipient
- The notification sender (this will be Ethica System in almost all cases)
- The unique identifier of the related activity session (session UUID)
- The scheduled time of the notification which tells you when the notification was sent or will be sent
- The activity that the notification belongs to
- The notification mediums that tells you through which medium a given notification is sent
notification status, which can be one of the following:
- Pending: The notification is scheduled to be sent in the future.
- Partially Failed: The notification was sent through some mediums, but it failed to be sent through one or more mediums. For example, in-app medium was sent, but email failed due to the participant’s email not being verified.
- Failed: This happens when a notification cannot be sent through any of the mediums. Also, if Ethica fails to process a notification and send it due to technical reasons, the notification will be marked as Failed.
- Success: The notification was sent successfully through all the mediums.
- Stale: This means Ethica could not send the notification on time due to technical reasons, and decided to skip it.
It's worth noting that when a session is blocked, expired, canceled, or completed, the associated upcoming Session Release notifications will be automatically deleted and will not be displayed. For further information on the session's status, please refer to the Triggering Logics.
As an example, let's say a researcher wants a participant to complete two sessions of one activity, one at 8 am and the other at 9 am. If the expiry time of the first session is set to 2 hours and the participant does not complete it before 9 am, the session scheduled for 9 am will be marked as "blocked" and the associated upcoming Session Release notifications will not be triggered for that session.
In another example, let's say a researcher links a Session Release Notification Template with a 20-hour offset to an activity. If the participant finishes the corresponding session in less than 20 hours, they will not receive a notification from that template for that session.
There are a few points worth mentioning here regarding the notifications that researchers and participants receive. We list all of them below:
- In-app notification is the default notification medium for participants. If participants verify their email and/or phone number, these mediums are also added. Note that participants can disable email and SMS notifications within the app.
- Ethica allows participants to modify their preferred notification mediums, except for the in-app medium which must be always enabled. This means that participants can choose whether they want to receive SMS and email notifications or not. To modify their notification preferences, participants can
- Open the Ethica app.
- Go to Settings
- Open Notifications
- Under the Notification Channels, they can specify how and where to receive the notifications
How participants can change notification settings on the app
- Ethica allows researchers to disable Email or SMS mediums.
- As a researcher, you can subscribe to or unsubscribe from some notifications. To do so:
- Click on your avatar on the left drawer menu of the Researcher Dashboard
- Select Notifications and change the settings.
How researchers can change notifications settings in Researcher Dashboard
Ethica allows you to send custom, one-off notifications to participants and other researchers of your study via In-App, Email, and SMS mediums. We refer to this as manually triggering a notification. Note that these notifications do not use a template. To create a one-off notification:
- Go to the Researcher Dashboard -> Notifications Page -> Notifications tab
- Click on the Send Notification button.
- Specify the recipients, the mediums, and the content for each medium.
- Hit the Send button.
Keep in mind that since the Ethica app is only used for participants, you cannot use the in-app medium to send notifications to other researchers of the study.