Grant application · Group work · Haptics

Looking back at the first two years of research at Örebro University, part 2: accessible digital collaborative learning environments

This research area is related to my first success when it comes to research grant applications. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post I drafted a Vinnova application for their call “Digital tools” during my first weeks at Örebro University. The first sentences on that application were actually written during my very first day at the university! The application was entitled “Virtual environments supporting group work between sighted and visually impaired pupils” and focused on designing and evaluating new digital learning environments partly based on the results from observations and interviews with both pupils and teachers during the first part of the project.

This is a perfect continuation of my earlier work within the area – my entire doctoral project was focused on designing and evaluating collaborative virtual environments based on combinations of visual, haptic and auditory feedback. You could say that my research career started here. This article summarizes my earlier work in this area, which included design and evaluation of new learning environments in which sighted and visually impaired pupils could work together to solve tasks related to geometry and the concepts of area and volume. The new learning environments were then evaluated in different elementary schools. You can read more about this earlier study in this blog post. When working with this study I also came into contact with the concept of haptic feedback for the first time and since then I have developed and evaluated several haptic applications that provide feedback to your sense of touch through special hardware. You can read more in my blog series on haptic interaction design.

The Vinnova application was handed in around a month after I started at Örebro University and after a few months of waiting, Vinnova sent us the accept message! I wrote this blog post, where I introduced the project partners, shortly after Vinnova made their decision public. I have really enjoyed working in this project, which is the result of my first ever accepted research grant application (co-applicant). As I write in this blog post we have experienced some problems due to the pandemic (e.g. observations in schools could not be carried out and all interviews needed to be carried out online), but the project was mostly a success. The blog image above actually shows my work set-up at my country side, where I was carrying out all my parts of the project.

My main responsibility in the project was to design and implement one of the project’s new digital collaborative learning environments. My application focused on the coordinate system concept and should be used to teach pupils about for example points and the equation of straight lines. The visual part was not that hard, but the haptic implementation was a real challenge. Let’s take the straight line as an example – how would you design the line so that it is clearly felt and possible to follow while at the same time making sure that it does not interfere too much with the exploration of the coordinate system? Keep in mind that severely visually impaired pupils should be able to use the application. It took several iterations before I ended up with the slightly magnetic line that was used in the final application. I will write more about the many interesting technical aspects in a later blog post, where I will also write about how I worked remotely with my KTH colleague Kjetil Falkenberg to synchronize his sound model with my visual and haptic model. I wasn’t the only one developing applications in the project – my former KTH colleague Jonas Forsslund (now Forsslund Systems AB and Haptikfabriken AB) developed another application based on exploration of maps. Also based on this application we had many interesting design-related discussions about the haptic and audio designs. I will come back to some of those later on as well.

After several iterations of development and user testing with users we ended up with two applications that I think we should be very happy with, especially since the whole idea with the Vinnova call was to develop prototypes and/or proof-of-concepts (not applications that are ready for implementation). I will describe the applications more thoroughly when the first results are about to be published. One risk with Vinnova projects is that they are often a lot more focused on development than on research, but in this case we have plenty of material from the design process and the interviews that we can publish and/or use as a basis for future research. This concerns for example interesting design dilemmas, the overall design process and support for collaboration between visually impaired and sighted pupils in general. All project partners are very interested in continuing to collaborate and I’m quite sure that this Vinnova project will not be the last externally funded project we will be engaged in. This time around, we did not include any colleagues from Örebro University, but I have every intention to include more of my colleagues in future projects in this area.

As I have written earlier, I recently bought new haptic devices to be used in research at my department. I’m still at my countryside due to the pandemic, but as soon as I get back to my office it is time to start discussions on how we can make use of the haptic dimension in our future research!  🙂

DOME · eHealth · Grant application · Medical Records Online · NORDeHEALTH

Looking back at the first two years of research at Örebro University, part 1: eHealth services for patients

In my last blog post I began my summary of the first half of my assistant professorship at Örebro University. In this blog post I will write more about the research part. During these last two years I have conducted research within these three different areas:

  • eHealth services for patients
  • accessible collaborative digital learning environments
  • teaching in higher education

My initial idea was to write one single blog post where I would summarize my research activities within all these areas, but I soon realized that the blog post would be too long. Instead, this post will focus on the first area, and the next two posts will focus on the second and third area, respectively.

eHealth services for patients

Just like I was before I started working at Örebro University, I have been a regular member of the DOME (Development of Online Medical records and E-health services) research consortium. This consortium gathers researchers from several Swedish universities and I have really enjoyed the collaboration with other DOME-researchers ever since I joined 2016. At the time I started up my assistant professorship, DOME was not externally funded (members were involved in e.g. Forte projects, but the consortium was not funded as a whole). During the first months at Örebro University I was one of many DOME researchers who wrote an application to NordForsk, in collaboration with partners from Finland, Norway, Estonia and USA. This was of course a great opportunity to fund the consortium as well as strengthening the collaboration with researchers in other countries who also focus on the implementation and effects of eHealth services for patients. The result of this hard work was the NordForsk-funded project NORDeHEALTH (Nordic eHealth for Patients: Benchmarking and Developing for the Future)! You can read more about the partners and the focus of the project in this blog post and of course on the official project webpage. The three-year project has now been running for around 8 months. Our project leader, Maria Hägglund from Uppsala University, leads management meetings each month, where most researchers participate, and we also have shorter informal “coffee and chat” sessions twice a month.

I really enjoy being a part of the NORDeHEALTH project and we have a really nice mix of researchers from several different disciplines! The only real down side up to this point is related to the pandemic – we have been working together for several months and we have still not gotten the opportunity to actually meet in person. Hopefully, we will be able to meet for the first time in December.

My responsibilities in the project are to lead the team at Örebro University and to co-lead the work package “WP 2 – National socio-technical contexts and policies” together with Isabella Scandurra. In this blog post you can read about the first months of work in our work package. We are currently working with collecting data related to the Swedish patient portal 1177 and the Swedish patient accessible electronic health record system Journalen. It will be very interesting to compare the results from the different countries later on during the autumn! Quite soon, large surveys will also be distributed in the participating Nordic countries and interview studies with both patients and healthcare professionals will be carried out. I will get back on this later on. There is no doubt that this project will play an important role when it comes to for example the understanding of the implementation and effects of eHealth services for patients, as well as future development of these kinds of services (at least) in the Nordic countries.

Before NORDeHEALTH started, I mostly worked with data from the large national patient survey that I have been writing about many times on this blog, and I was also part of a smaller research collaboration with my colleague Gunnar Klein and Region Örebro regarding the region’s implementation of video visits in primary care. Hopefully, new funding will come in making it possible to study both the implementation and initial effects of engaging in video visits, in depth. I would definitely welcome such a research project. I mentioned the successful research application above, but of course some unsuccessful ones were handed in as well. Four applications (one to the Swedish Research Council, one to AFA Insurances and two to Forte) were declined. Three of them were focusing on different aspects of patient accessible electronic health records and shared decision making and the fourth, to AFA Insurances, focused on how digital technology could be, and should be, used when relatives communicate with dying relatives without being able to meet in person. I assume that we will be making new rounds with the applications during this autumn and next year.

When it comes to conferences I have participated in both Vitalis and The International Symposium for Health Information Management Research (ISHIMR), which were both held online. You can read about my online Vitalis experience here and you can actually find the video presentation that Hanife Rexhepi and I used for the ISHIMR conference here.

Distance work · DOME · eHealth · Grant application · Haptics · NORDeHEALTH

Just reached half-time of my assistant professorship at Örebro University!

In the beginning of August 2019 I started off my work as an assistant professor in Informatics at Örebro University. The assistant professorship is a four year position, and towards the end you will, in most cases, be promoted to a senior lecturer or associate professor after an application procedure. Since I have now reached half-time, I think it’s reasonable to summarize what I have done this far and discuss what lies ahead.

Overall, I’m very happy with how the first two years played out when it comes to both research (~80%) and teaching (~20%), even though the pandemic posed some difficult challenges in both areas. I have gotten the opportunity to participate in some very interesting research collaborations. The funded Vinnova project I drafted the application for during the first weeks at the university ended just before summer 2021 and the collaboration that was built with the involved stakeholders was really fruitful. Representatives from both The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired and The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) want to continue the collaborations and we are already looking for new funding opportunities in the area of accessible digital collaborative learning environments. The national and international collaborations in the NordForsk project NORDeHEALTH, which started up formally in January 2021, have also been fruitful and I look forward to another two years of research on personal eHealth services in the Nordic countries. Aside from working in externally funded projects, I also started up some internal collaborations, mostly related to pedagogical research. I will write more about the first two years of research, and the publications published, in my second and third posts about the first half of the assistant professorship.

The teaching has been more of a challenge than I expected when I stared working as an assistant professor two years ago. I know the courses, but being thrown into digital teaching mode made the teaching more difficult than ever before, especially since I have been course responsible for the courses I have been involved in (Interaction design and System development theory). Despite this, the courses worked really well and the students seemed to be happy with them. I will write more about these courses, and the challenges associated with digital teaching and examination, in my fourth and last blog post about the first two years of my assistant professorship.

I really hope, and also believe, that the second half will be just as rewarding as the first one. Hopefully, I will be able to start even more internal research collaborations, especially now when I have made sure that we have two brand new haptic devices at the department – this should open up several new research opportunities within, for example, the areas of digital learning environments and multimodal data exploration and analysis!

communication · eHealth · Grant application

New project grant application submitted to AFA!

A project grant application, where I am one of the co-applicants, was submitted to AFA Insurance yesterday! A lot of work has been done on the application and it has been submitted (and, unfortunately, rejected) one time before. The following partners are involved (I will be more specific when the application has gone through the process):

  • University of Skövde (the partner in charge)
  • Örebro University (I’m the representative from here)
  • Uppsala University

The main research area of the application is eHealth, but the focus is not on patient accessible electronic health records this time. We have tailored the application more towards the Covid-19 pandemic and how digital technology could be, and should be, used when communicating with dying relatives without being able to meet in person.

I’m not sure when we will get an accept/reject decision from AFA, but it will at least happen before we leave 2020, since most of the funded projects will most probably start in the beginning of January.

Grant application · Group work · Haptics

Finally working with haptic interaction design again!

As I previously mentioned in this post I am co-applicant of the Vinnova-funded application “Virtual environments supporting group work between sighted and visually impaired pupils”, which officially started in late autumn 2019 and will go on until summer 2021. I’m really happy about this project for several reasons. Most and foremost, the project makes it possible for me to really engage in haptic interaction design again (I have not done research in that area during the last couple of years) and the application was also the first one for which I managed to attract external funding (hence, a very important milestone in my academic carrier).

The project consists of a couple of main phases:

  1. A pre-study where we investigate the situation that visually impaired pupils face in school today, especially in collaborative situations. One of the important focus points here has been to find out which school subjects we should focus on.
  2. Iterative prototype development, focusing on haptic and audio technology, where we follow a user-centered design approach.
  3. Evaluations in schools, where groups of pupils will solve some prepared school assignments with the developed application.
  4. Development of guidelines for designing, evaluating and using virtual learning environments that support group work between sighted and visually impaired pupils.

I will take part in all project phases, but will devote most of my project time to the iterative prototype development and the development of the final guidelines. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has caused quite a lot of trouble for us especially in the first project phase where we had to make adjustments. I was really looking forward to the planned observation activity, where I, together with some other project members, should visit some selected schools to observe group work between visually impaired and sighted pupils. This type of activity is one of the most valuable when it comes to understanding the users and their environment. But we had to let go of this activity altogether. All interviews with e.g. pupils and teachers will also be conducted online, which is of course far from ideal.

This being said, the most important thing is that we still have a way to interact with pupils and teachers. We also have a very good collaboration between the project members representing academia and the project members representing Axess Lab (a company division focusing on digital accessibility from numerous perspectives), The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired and The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM), so I’m absolutely sure we will be successful in the end.

Currently, I’m working on the first prototype of our virtual learning environment and I’m really enjoying it. The setup is not exactly as I planned, though, also as a consequence of Covid-19. Since I take immune suppressive medication it’s not a very good idea for me to go to Örebro University or to live in towns like Stockholm for long periods of time, so I have been living at my countryside, at Gräsö, since beginning of March. Since prototype development had to start, we made the decision to move all equipment (including haptic devices and the new project computer – all prepared by my colleague Jonas Forsslund) to my countryside! You can see an example setup in the blog image above.

It’s maybe not the best setup, but it definitely works and I’m making progress. I will of course write more about the prototype development and the other phases of the project later on. So stay tuned  🙂

DOME · eHealth · Grant application · Haptics · Medical Records Online · Pedagogical development · Teaching

Looking back at my first year as assistant professor, part 1: research

I started my work as an assistant professor in Informatics at Örebro University August 1st 2019, and I’m now taking this opportunity to shortly summarize the first year. Usually, I link to earlier blog posts when I write summaries, but this very special spring term with online teaching and 100% distance work actually made me forget to use the blog.  😦

This post will be about research activities (excluding publications, which will be covered in the next summary post).

When it comes to research, quite a lot has happened during this first year. Those who have been following this blog for a while have probably seen that I have been trying to get research funding from different sources, sometimes as main applicant and sometimes as co-applicant, since I started as a postdoc at Uppsala University. After several rejects during the period 2015-2019 I finally managed to get some external funding from Vinnova! I write about the project, which focuses on developing digital learning tools for collaboration between visually impaired and sighted pupils in school, in this and this blog post. My next blog post after the summary posts will also be about this project (I know I haven’t written that much about it yet).

As it turned out, the Vinnova application was not the only project grant application (where I was one of the co-applicants) that got funded during this last year! Together with several of my colleagues in the DOME consortium, as well as partners focusing on eHealth in Norway, Finland, Estonia and the USA, I worked on a NordForsk application during Autumn 2019 and early spring 2020. One of my colleagues from Uppsala University, Maria Hägglund led the work. In May we got a confirmation from NordForsk that the project will be funded. The project title is “Nordic eHealth for Patients: Benchmarking and Developing for the Future” and it will start in January 2021. I’m really looking forward to this important research which will go on for three years!

I have also worked on some applications that came to be rejected. One of them (a draft) was submitted to Forte (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare) and one was submitted to AFA Försäkringar. Both focused on eHealth solutions for patients. Actually, two drafts were submitted to Forte and one of them, for which Maria Hägglund led the work, was accepted. Since this means that a complete application could be submitted just before summer we don’t know yet if we will get funding or not.

Aside from working with grant applications and the above mentioned Vinnova-funded project, I have also worked on some internal projects at the Informatics department. One of those projects focuses on eHealth and more specifically the introduction of video visits in primary care in Region Örebro. My colleague Gunnar Klein leads the research which is currently not funded (although, we will try to fix that issue soon). A first research task – a survey distributed to healthcare professionals – has already been carried out and several other activities, involving both patients and healthcare professionals, have also been planned.

The other internal project I am involved in focuses on education and more specifically on the changes made in our courses in Informatics as a consequence of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In March it was decided that all teaching should move online (including all examinations) – a transition that was far from easy. I was lucky enough to get around 1.5 months to prepare for my course in interaction design, but some of my colleagues had to transform ongoing courses from campus based to online! I will write more about my course in interaction design in a later summary post. This internal project, which will focus on e.g. different courses, examination types and levels of educations, and where both teachers and students will be involved, is coordinated by me (although I must say that it has been extremely complicated to coordinate this when we can only meet online!).

The activities mentioned above are the main research activities I have been involved in since I started working at Örebro University. In the next summary post I will write about the publications that have been published and accepted during the last year.

(I took the blog picture above at my countryside a while ago)

communication · Grant application · Group work · Haptics · Multimodality

Got funding from Vinnova!


A few months ago I wrote in this blog post that a funding application, where I represented Örebro University as one of the co-applicants, had been submitted to Vinnova (Sweden’s government agency for innovation). And guess what, the project got funded! The name of the project is “Virtual environments supporting group work between sighted and visually impaired pupils”, and as the name suggests we will work closely with visually impaired and sighted pupils (as well as teachers) to develop new virtual learning environments that support collaboration a lot better than today’s special equipment used by visually impaired pupils in schools. My former supervisor at the Royal Institute of Technology, Eva-Lotta Sallnäs Pysander is the project leader and Örebro University, Axess Lab (a company division focusing on digital accessibility from numerous perspectives), The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired and The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) are the other project partners. I will introduce the other project members and write more about the project as soon as press releases have been published by the Royal Institute of Technology and Örebro University.

This project is very special to me for several reasons. First and foremost, this is the very first time I have been contributing extensively to a project application that has resulted in external funding. Writing these kinds of applications requires a lot of work and collaboration between researchers and other stakeholders and it feels great when the efforts finally pay off! I’m also very happy about that I’m now able to focus more on the research field “IT and learning” again. It was quite a while ago that I worked on multimodal learning environments. The research area is really important and I’m glad that Vinnova has acknowledged that. Another reason why this project is special to me is that I started to work on the application shortly after I had started working as an assistant professor at Örebro University – one of the very first things I did within the scope of my new position actually resulted in external research funding! I think this is a very good start for me and I’m really excited about this new project.

If you want to read a short summary of the project, you can visit this page where Vinnova has published some short descriptions about the purpose, approach and expected results. I will write more in a later blog post as soon as I have some university press releases to link to. So stay tuned!  🙂


conference · DOME · eHealth · Grant application · Medical Records Online · Vitalis

New DOME conference and a visit from University of Iowa!

Last Thursday evening I returned home to Stockholm after some very rewarding days at University of Skövde, where we had this fall’s DOME conference. Before travelling to Skövde Tuesday morning, I also spent a day at Uppsala University where I met Carolyn Turvey from the department of psychiatry at the University of Iowa. Carolyn has, like the researchers in DOME, a research focus on eHealth and patient portals. Thus, this has been a week with a heavy focus on eHealth research in different contexts. There is a lot to say about what was going on during these days so I will just bring up some general points here and then focus on different parts in later blog posts.

During the Monday, Carolyn came to the department of Information Technology at Uppsala University to meet me and another colleague (visiting researcher) from the same research group – Magdelena Stadin. When it comes to eHealth and patient portals, Carolyn’s focus is on the My HealtheVet portal for the Veteran Affairs in the United States. The original idea was that I should meet Carolyn only during the morning, but because of different unforeseen events we spent the entire day together discussing different projects and implementations of patient portals. It was very interesting to discuss Sweden’s version of the patient accessible electronic health record and compare it with My HealtheVet. The basic ideas behind these systems are similar – that patients should be able to access e.g. visit notes, test results and medication lists online – but the implementations are totally different! I will write more about this in a later blog post. During the last hour at Uppsala University Carolyn held an interesting guest presentation, about an evaluation of My HealtheVet, which some other members of my former department joined.

During the Tuesday and Wednesday, the DOME researchers gathered for this fall’s two-day conference. Rose-Mharie Åhlfeldt hosted the conference at the University of Skövde. Unfortunately, Carolyn and I were the only researchers who could actually travel to the university and be present during both days. Several others, however, joined us via Zoom. The first day started with lunch, after which Carolyn held a short presentation about her work with My HealtheVet. Her presentation was, once again, very appreciated and it is clear that we have many shared research interests! I will write more about these in other blog posts. During the rest of the afternoon Maria Hägglund led a discussion about a new research grant application to NordForsk which we will write during the fall, together with partners from other Nordic countries (Norway and Finland, among others). The focus will of course be on different aspects of patient portals. We came up with several interesting ideas for future research in the area so I think we will end up with a strong application! We ended the day by going to dinner at a very interesting restaurant where you order everything on your phone!

During Wednesday morning, after some additional discussions about the NordForsk application, I held a presentation where I showed some results from the large inteview/survey/observation study at Uppsala University Hospital. I will get back to that in a later blog post. You can also read about the survey study, on the effects of patient accessible electronic health records on the work of oncology professionals, in this blog post. During the rest of the time before lunch Isabella Scandurra led a discussion about next year’s DOME session at Vitalis. I think we ended up with a very interesting agenda, including some presentations, panels, some role play (of course!) and strategies for involving the audience. I will get back to this later on (you can read about an earlier DOME session at Vitalis here). This was the last point on this fall’s DOME conference agenda.

During the late Wednesday afternoon and most of the Thursday I met with another DOME colleague in Skövde – Hanife Rexhepi. Since she couldn’t attend the conference we decided to meet afterwards instead. We have a lot of things going on related to planned grant applications and ongoing work with several journal manuscripts. We had interesting discussions which, among other things, resulted in a version of a journal manuscript which I could submit to a journal the day after! During most of the time we took some longer walks in Skövde – a really nice town! During one of those walks I took the above blog image.

Grant application · Group work · Multimodality

New project grant application submitted to Vinnova!


During the last couple of weeks I have worked a lot on a research grant application to Vinnova (call: Digital tools) and today it was finally submitted! The application is based on a collaboration between the following partners, who all apply for funding in the application:

The proposed project is based on earlier proof-of-concept work that I performed at KTH regarding multimodal learning environments supporting collaboration between sighted and visually impaired pupils. I will of course be able to say a lot more about the involved partners and the content of the project after Vinnova has reviewed the application (in the middle of November). I really hope that the project will be funded since I really miss working within this research area, and I also think that the research is important for society.

One confirmation of that both our old and planned research in this area is considered important is that representatives from both the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired and the National Agency of Special Needs Education and Schools decided to take active part in the project (in case it gets funded). I’m sure they would not do that if they didn’t identify a high importance for society, and especially the main target group, as well as an importance on a national level. Even if the project doesn’t get funding we should definitely make sure to continue the collaboration and discussions with the involved partners – there are always new opportunities for research up ahead and as long as clear mutual benefits can be identified the collaboration should move on.

Stay tuned for more!  🙂


Grant application · Pedagogy

My first week at Örebro University!


Starting on Monday, August 12, I spent my first week at Örebro University! I started my new job as assistant professor there already August 1, but I worked from a distance the first two weeks since the university was still pretty empty due to vacation periods. Obviously, a lot of interesting things happened during this first week at the University.

Unsurprisingly, the first day was mostly filled with different administrative things (like getting access card, keys and all the necessary computer equipment) and walkthroughs of the department and its surroundings. Before lunch, the head of department, Kai Wistrand, showed me around at the Informatics department, other departments at the School of Business and the campus area. The campus area is very nice, with buildings spread over a large area. It takes quite a while to go from the westernmost part of the campus, where I work in the Nova building, to the other side. There are quite a few restaurants in the area (most of them seem to be focusing on pasta 🙂 ) and it seems to be fairly easy to navigate around campus. It seems like I have ended up at a campus where the labelling of different houses actually makes some sense! The Nova building, hosting the school of business (including the Informatics department where I work) is fairly new. There are a lot of open areas and the overall atmosphere is very nice. I’m very glad that I have an office in that building (see blog image).

Aside from the usual introduction parts I also worked on a manuscript (after minor revision request from a journal) which I submitted the day after, and read up on all my university emails that I couldn’t access before. Among those emails I found two that were especially interesting and that have influenced my work during these latest weeks – a news letter from the grants office and information about grants for pedagogical development within the university. I found one Vinnova call about assistive digital technology particularly interesting and I also started thinking about how I could use pedagogical development funds to introduce haptic interaction design in some of the department’s courses!

During the rest of the week I worked on a couple of conference proceedings (for Medical Informatics Europe 2020) and journal manuscripts in progress, while I was transferring files from my old Uppsala University computer to my new computer from Örebro University. Transferring files is an extremely boring activity, and I’m very glad I could work with manuscripts at the same time. During this week I also implemented a new time management approach which you can read about here.

In summary, the first week at Örebro University was very nice. I felt very welcome and I think that I made a lot of good progress. I’m glad I found the information about the grants I mentioned above. I started writing on drafts and contacted some people directly and I currently have a complete draft for a pedagogical development project and I’m half way through a Vinnova project plan draft! I will of course write more about these applications later on.