goWSB is a real-time tracking smart mobility service which enables families to visualise the progression of their child's walking school bus (WSB) towards school. This webpage gives details of the research.
If you are a parent, educator or authority interested to find out how goWSB could potentially be used in your school, you can play the goWSB video and find out more information at www.gowsb.com
Walking School Bus
The goWSB app enables families to visualise the progression of their child's walking school bus towards school. We investigated the extent to which the app benefits the quality of the waiting experience, making sustainable travel more convenient to users. Outcomes in terms of fuel cost savings, carbon footprint reduction and children's health benefits are informing next steps with UK policy-influencing organisations. We already know that WSBs are a viable and sustainable mode of transport with leading UK companies being involved in their promotion. In turn, WSBs lead to fuel cost savings, carbon footprint reduction and promoting children's health related quality of life. Co-developed with key beneficiaries (school communities, transport providers, local authorities and policy-influencing organisations), the delivery of goWSB service has been informed by research. We identify here what has changed with the introduction of goWSB, and show how this is an important foundation to capturing future impact in children's health, fuel cost savings and carbon reduction.
The research behind the goWSB app involved three years of computer science research into how to provide generalizable support for mobile applications based on the prediction of future events, supported by research studies in psychology to deliver a 'proof of concept' for goWSB. Unlike goWSB, traditional walking school buses run without technology, and involve children walking together to school as a group managed by a coordinator. WSBs run according to a timetable to enable families to estimate when their child should join. In contrast, the goWSB innovation relies on users accessing real-time information, enabling families to visually track the goWSB icon on screen from their own home. Using the goWSB app, parents and children track the WSB as it departs from its starting point and travels along designated stops until it reaches the school. In this way, while the WSB is being tracked, families can access real-time estimates of the WSB arrival time at their chosen stop and parents get reassurance of when the WSB arrives at the school.
In aiming to deliver this 'proof of concept' to make traditional WSBs more convenient through the use of the goWSB app, clearly we needed to determine to what extent the concept would be perceived of value to users. A key feature of goWSB was the shift away from a fixed time schedule associated with 'traditional' WSBs towards offering users a seamless connection in joining the WSB. To this end, our research aim was to address the extent to which users from diverse time cultures would actually tolerate a shift away from a fixed-time schedule towards a more flexible one.
Through a series of studies reported below, we identified how people's conceptions of time may impact on technology adoption of real-time information systems:
Norgate, S.H., Davies, N., Speed, C., Cherrett, T. & Dickinson, J. (2014) The missing dimension: The relevance of people's conception of time. Commentary on 'Mapping Collective Behaviour in the Big-data Era by R. Alexander Bentley & Michael J. O'Brien, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 37(1), 93-94.
Initially, we researched into the value of 'traditional' WSBs which were not technology enabled:
Smith, L., Norgate, S.H., Cherrett, T., Davies, N., Winstanley, C. & Harding, M. (2015).Walking School Buses as a Form of Active Transportation for Children – A Review of the Evidence. Journal of School Health, 85(3), 197–210.
Based on studies involving 9169 children, we identified: (a) countries with existing WSB provision; (b) the barriers to 'convenience' associated with traditional WSBs and (c) the strength of the evidence base around the role of WSBs in children's health. In turn, this enabled us to identify how traditional WSBs could be made more convenient for school communities to promote fuel cost saving, carbon footprint reduction and children's health.
Our next step was to discover if users saw any merit in the concept of goWSB. From research, we reported that 72 % (n=29) of users from 15 primary schools representing a range of socio-demographics accepted the concept of the goWSB service:
Norgate, S.H, Smith, L., Speed, C., Winstanley, C., Harding, M., Davies, N., Cherrett, T.,& Dickinson, J. (2013) Aiding school travel though Smartphone enabled 'walking school buses' – user needs and perceptions. Universities Transport Research Group, University of Oxford. Invited Plenary, January, 2013.
The impact of this research was acceptance of the goWSB concept by school communities, and also the application of qualitative insights from users into the next stages of goWSB service development. For instance, head teachers reported that they valued provision of a service linking school with home. Based on this, one outcome was that the impact pathway involved promoting engagement of parents with children in schools with poor attendance. Significantly, unequivocal evidence that the goWSB had viability in future markets arose nationwide when local authorities voted for goWSB to win a national award for partnership building at the policy-influencing organisation Modeshift (November, 2013). Following the award, around 12 authorities with WSBs – some reporting 40-50 WSB's per authority – have registered interest in uptake of goWSB.
Given this emergent profile for goWSB, our next step was to undertake trials to assess the quality of the waiting experience during the use of the goWSB app. We were specifically addressing the extent to which goWSB made sustainable modes of transport more convenient to school communities.
By August 2014, the goWSB service was tested in six primary schools involving 43 parents from a range of socio-demographic backgrounds for up to one month. Following the research outcome that individual time 'culture' made a difference to the perceived quality of waiting time, this informed our future dissemination plans. Internationally, leaders of school fitness programmes (USA - Michigan, Canada - Alberta and Norway) found research outputs and requested access to the goWSB service.
The trials finished by August 2014, and the research outcomes from qualitative data and/or consultations with parents, children, head teachers, WSB coordinators and authority leads showed evidence of users having accepted the goWSB concept, and this was found to be attributed to:
- Perceived ease of use
- Suitability of the goWSB to key features of the built environment – for example, in areas with curvilinear street layouts where the visibility of the arrival of the bus was limited
- Reassurance about safe arrival of the WSB at school
- Provision of a service linking school with home
Based on research involving 43 parents in either an 'experimental' or a 'control' group, there was evidence of a positive impact of adopting goWSB based on the following variables: (a) condition - smart mobility goWSB vs control group; (b.) time-point (pre-trial vs post trial) as well as measures of psychological 'time perspective'. These findings are currently being written up.
If you are interested to find out more about goWSB, you can play the goWSB video and find out more information at www.gowsb.com
We understand the extent to which behavioural change in transport habits and practices can be facilitated through the creation of a new form of ‘transport network’, based on extending social networking principles to transport users.
The project has developed a suite of mobile phone apps for each of the corresponding research contexts. Watch videos and read details of the projects aims, key findings and outputs.
The 6ST team comprised researchers from the universities of Southampton, Edinburgh, Salford, Bournemouth and Lancaster.