KoboToolbox setup workflow: how to get offline survey or data collection up and running on an Android device for free in less than an hour

KoboToolbox is a data collection tool that enables you to write surveys, install them for completion offline on Android devices or via a web browser. It can be used to collect all sorts of data, including normal survey results, photos, and map and location data. More information here.

I was looking for an app to automate the data entry for literacy testing at Saya Suka Membaca, and KoboToolbox looks like it will work (I’m testing it with my team tomorrow). This blog post is a quick workflow that will get you up and running with a survey that you can use offline on an android phone in less then an hour.

I’m also writing this post in less than an hour – if anything doesn’t work or isn’t obvious, or if this helps you, please leave a comment below.

1. Make a free account (for admin and survey creation) at KoboToolbox.org

  1. Go to https://www.kobotoolbox.org/
  2. Click Sign Up on the tool bar or scroll down the page. It’s free for everyone.
  3. Click the right hand CREATE AN ACCOUNT button for “Researchers, Aid Workers & Everyone Else” (or click here to go straight there).
  4. Fill in the registration form using a username that you’ll use for an admin account.
  5. Remember your password.
  6. Follow the steps to complete registration (there may be a confirmation email).

2. Make and test a quick survey

  1. Log In by scrolling down to the signup part of the page and choosing login (little useability quirk there) – or go straight to the login page here.
  2. Each survey is its own project. Click New Project (or press the top left menu, choose the clipboard logo, then NEW).
  3. Use Build From Scratch with a name like “YOUR ORGANISATION – SURVEY TEST” and complete the other fields of the form then click CREATE PROJECT.
  4. You should see a blank form. Go to Layout and Settings (right) to choose form style – do you want all questions on a single page, multiple pages (I chose this – it means users answer one question at a time in the app) or grid view (I haven’t tried it).
  5. Press the X next to layout and settings to exit the menu (don’t click the X at the top)
  6. Add your survey questions:
    • Click the plus symbol and type the question name (can be edited later)
    • Click the green “Add Question” to choose what kind of field. (You may need to click the gear icon.) The fields are fairly self-explanatory. For a simple survey try:
      • Text for something like entering a respondent’s name
      • Select One or Select Many for single and multiple choice (like choosing from a list of schools)
      • Number for entering scores
    • Set up Question Options according to your need by clicking the gear icon:
      • “Mandatory Response” will make a field mandatory (!)
      • You can rename the Data Column (for when you view the results) and add a hint too
    • Skip Logic allows you to automate skipping of questions:
      • Click the “Add Conditions” Button
      • Add conditions – for example, using “If response to Question 1 is 0” will mean that the question you’re editing will be skipped if 0 is entered for Question 1.
    • Use validation criteria to ensure you get valid answers for each question. For example, use the condition “The question’s response has to be greater than or equal to 0” and a second condition of “less than or equal to 5” for a score out of five.
  7. Save your project.
  8. Press the rectangular Kobo icon (top left) to go back to your projects.
  9. Hover over the project you’ve just made. You can edit, tag for future reference, or click the three-dot menu button to see more options, including “Deploy this project”.
  10. Click “Deploy this project”.
  11. Click the eye icon above the Current Version box to preview the survey and make sure everything works.
  12. Have a look at the Collect data box below. Online-Offline is for app-based and web-based submission. Choosing “Android Application” opens instructions for setting up the Android app – see below.

3. [Optional] Make a secondary data collection account and share the survey from the admin account

  1. Log out of KoboToolbox – or open a different web browser, or in private/incognito mode.
  2. Repeat the instructions above, choosing a user name and password that will be easy to share with the people collecting the data. (I’ve just tried making a new account with the same email address and it seemed to work.)
  3. Log back into your original account, select your project, and select “Share project” in the quick links to the right of the summary page, or by clicking it in the menu button above Current Version box.
  4. Add the username of your second (data collection) account.

4. Download KoboCollect from the Google Play store onto your Android device

  1. Hopefully self explanatory!

5. Connect the app to your KoboToolbox data collection account and download your form

  1. Open the app
  2. Click the three-dot menu button (top right) and choose “General Settings.”
  3. Click “Server”
  4. Use these settings:
    • Type: KoboToolbox
    • URL: https://kc.kobotoolbox.org/
    • User name: [your data collection account user name]
    • Password: [your password]
  5. Use “back” (swipe etc) to get back to the main menu.
  6. Clear the demonstration forms:
    • Choose “Delete Saved Form” (bottom button)
    • Choose “Blank Forms” (top right)
    • Select all
    • Delete Selected
  7. Download your own survey:
    • Choose “Get Blank Form”
    • You should see your form – choose its checkbox or “Select all” at the bottom of the page.
    • Choose “Get Selected”

6. Fill in the Survey

  1. Choose “Fill Blank Form”
  2. Choose your survey
  3. Fill it in!
  4. Say yes to save and finalize at the end.

7. Sync Your Data

This should be automatic. If you’ve been offline you may need to press “Send Finalized Form” when you’re back online.

8. Review your data

Review your data (with some simple automatic analysis and graphs available) in the Summary and Data tabs on the KoboToolbox site. You can download excel and other formats there. Play around and find out what’s possible.

It’s in your hands

That’s as far as I’ve got – the rest is up to you!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...