What does an IRB protocol look like with Terracotta?

Responsible experimentation in academic settings

One of our core aims in designing and developing Terracotta is to streamline the process of conducting experimental research in education settings responsibly. For example, we've designed features within Terracotta to enable informed consent, privacy, and confidentiality. But outside Terracotta, most academic researchers also need to receive approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB) in order to conduct a study.

As a proof-of-concept, we composed an IRB protocol for a pilot study to be carried out with Terracotta, and have recently received approval for this protocol from the Indiana University IRB. As further progress toward streamlining experimental research, we offer this protocol as a template that might facilitate future research using Terracotta:

IRB QuestionnaireDownload

IRB Informed Consent StatementDownload

IRB Subject Information SheetDownload

For this pilot, we're proposing a research study comparing different versions of homework assignments in an undergraduate statistics course. We opted to design the study so that we would obtain informed consent from students before they are assigned to experimental treatment, but this requirement may not be necessary for all research in Terracotta. According to US code (§46.104.d.1), when research only "involves normal educational practices" examining "the effectiveness or the comparison among instructional techniques," then the research may be exempt from needing to obtain participants' consent to participate. Nevertheless, we feel that seeking permission from students is still a good idea.

The protocol documents linked above may not provide the appropriate materials required for all IRBs, and the documents themselves have had certain details of the local implementation removed for clarity. Nevertheless, these are provided openly and publicly, in hopes that they might help streamline future research using Terracotta.