Getting Started with Electronic Data Collection

Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Getting started with electronic data collection

Data collection is a key component of applied behavior analysis services. Data collection helps you to monitor your client’s progress toward their goals. It helps you notice behavior changes as it relates to changes in the environment.

Benefits of Electronic ABA Data Collection

One study by Marc and colleagues looked at some of the benefits of using electronic data collection systems rather than paper-based data collection. They found the following benefits:

  • Improving collaboration among staff
  • Improving communication between parents and service providers
  • Making it easier to share data with others
  • Increasing the efficiency of collecting and accessing data
  • Reducing paper waste

The ABA industry and most other human service providers traditionally have used paper and pen to keep records and track data. However, in our modern society, many service providers, behavior analysts included, are transitioning to electronic records.

Electronic data collection in ABA organizations is becoming more common. This is for good reason. Electronic data collection can be more efficient than paper and pen data collection. It can be easier to analyze your data using electronic data collection. You and your team can also access electronic data more quickly than is often possible with paper records.

Considerations for Getting Started with Electronic ABA Data Collection

When you decide to transition to electronic data collection, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the change go more smoothly. We’ll provide some recommendations and tips to help you get started with electronic data collection.

Easy-to-Use System

If you are considering electronic data collection, you are probably looking for something easy to use, something that can create graphs for you, so you no longer have to transfer the data you collected on paper and put it into a spreadsheet manually, and also a data collection software that won’t be too tedious or difficult to use so that you don’t interrupt your time with the children you are helping. Consider these characteristics of quality data collection software as you start with this practice management change in your agency.

Risks with Paper-Based Data Collection

The longer you continue using paper-based data collection, the more risk you take for your data to get lost or damaged. Although there may be a slight chance of losing electronic records, it is much more likely that paper records could be misplaced by a staff member or damaged by something as simple as someone spilling coffee on the document itself or by something more significant, like a fire, tornado, or flood.

Without access to the paper records, you might have trouble getting funding sources to reimburse your services. It will also, undoubtedly, make analyzing your clients’ progress more difficult.

Provide Staff Training

To make the transition to using electronic data collection rather than paper-based data collection systems more successfully, be sure to provide ample training to staff before implementing the use of the new system as well as regularly after you have started using electronic data collection to troubleshoot any issues your team may be having and to ensure things are going according to plan.

Multi-Functional Data Collection Software

When getting started with electronic data collection in an ABA organization, consider how you can enhance your overall services and how you can incorporate multiple tasks into one software system. For instance, Catalyst allows you to get signatures on session notes. They also allow you to input specific client information into your session notes. You can also collect data in individualized formats for each client. Additionally, you can link your data to baseline, mastery, and maintenance criteria. This feature is extremely useful when creating a progress report as all the data can be gathered for you to make reviewing progress much easier.

Types of Electronic Data Collection

Some examples of data you can collect electronically include the following:

    • Discrete trial teaching
    • Duration
    • Task analysis data
    • Frequency and rate data
    • Probe data
    • Audio recording of echoics
    • Anecdotal data
    • Partial and whole interval recording
    • Event recording
    • Antecedent and consequences
    • Behavior information such as location, time of day, etc.
    • Continuous measurements (such as frequency or duration)
    • Discontinuous measurements (such as momentary time sampling or partial interval recording)

Start with a Small Group

To help you move to electronic data collection in your ABA practice, one recommendation is to select a small group of clients and staff to test the data collection software. Even if the software will very likely suit your needs and your goals for your practice, changing any system within an organization can present some challenges. Part of the challenge is simply that changing the habits of how people are used to collecting data may cause some level of stress, even if the software you will be using is amazing.

To make it easier on the whole team, having a few select service providers switch over to electronic data at first can be a helpful strategy. These staff can then offer support and feedback to the rest of the team once the whole organization transitions to electronic data collection.

Consider Catalyst

One of the challenges with moving from paper-based data collection to electronic data collection in an ABA practice is finding the right data collection software. Many ABA providers and BCBAs attempt to explore electronic data collection but then get overwhelmed by the challenge of finding a data collection system that will meet their needs and one which will make the process of collecting and analyzing data easier and more efficient than it has previously been.

Catalyst can help. Catalyst is used by many ABA organizations and has numerous positive reviews. Among some of the great reviews of Catalyst, ABA providers and BCBAs report that Catalyst is “easy to use” and “ does all the graphing for you.” As you get started with electronic data collection, consider using Catalyst. It will make the change a lot easier.

You can sign up for a free trial of Catalyst here. No credit card is required!


Marcu, Gabriela & Tassini, Kevin & Carlson, Quintin & Goodwyn, Jillian & Rivkin, Gabrielle & Schaefer, Kevin & Dey, Anind & Kiesler, Sara. (2013). Why do they still use paper?: understanding data collection and use in Autism education. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – Proceedings. 3177-3186. 10.1145/2470654.2466436.



Related Posts