AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | mobile

We’re Ningqin Wu and Amy Chen, both coordinators at AFDI – the Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Institute (AFDI) in Shanghai, China. AFDI is a member of the CLEAR Initiative (Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results) and hosts the East Asia CLEAR Center. CLEAR promotes evaluation capacity building in regional centers across the globe. This week’s blogs are by CLEAR members.

Much of the work at our center involves training, with participants coming from across the globe, but especially in China and other parts of Asia. We’d been looking for an easy way to stay in touch with participants before, during and after courses. We turned to a popular instant messaging service – in our case WeChat – to serve as our main connecting tool with course participants. Below we share more about how we use it.

WeChat – like many other similar apps – is a powerful mobile communication tool to connect the users across the globe. It supports sending voice, video, photo and text messages. We can chat in Chinese with our Chinese participants, and in English with our international participants. We mainly use it to build “mobile learning communities” with members of each of our courses, such as our annual course, SHIPDET – the Shanghai International Program for Development Evaluation Training.

  • Before courses, we send detailed instructions on how to install the app and invite participants to join. We send logistics details and reminders on deadlines. If participants have any questions, they are able to connect to us directly – and the group can see responses which can be helpful for all to read.
  • During the class, we and the instructors share files and other relevant information in our groups. This supports their learning after the training is over. The participants use it to plan social outings and share community info. We also share end-of-course evaluation links through the app so participants can complete course surveys.
  • After the courses and when participants return to work, we use WeChat to stay connected and promote upcoming courses among those alumni. We share resources – such as links to new publications or conferences – with the participants. We’ve found that if instructors are active users, the groups will tend to stay more connected.

Hot Tip:

  • Remember that not everyone has a smartphone or feels comfortable connecting in a group. So make provisions – such as sending information via email – to those who wish not to participate through instant messaging.

Rad Resources:

  • Different apps are more popular in some regions than others. So explore what people in your region might be using such as WhatsApp, iMessage and others.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CLEAR. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hi, my name is Or Dashevsky, Chief Solution Architect for Catholic Relief Services based in Baltimore. I’m responsible for providing technical leadership to a team who develop CRS’ enterprise architecture.

Malaria is endemic in Sierra Leone, with stable and perennial transmission in all parts of the country. As such, the entire population is at risk of developing the disease. Malaria accounts for about 50% of outpatient morbidity and is presently the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five years of age, with a mortality attributed to malaria estimated to be 38% among this age group and 25% for all ages (Outpatient morbidity statistics, MoHS, 2009, MIS 2010).Dashevsky

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) of Sierra Leone are co-implementing a Global Fund project to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund Round 10). The overall goal of the Global Fund Round 10 Malaria project is to achieve the malaria-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, not only nationally, but also among the poorest groups across Sierra Leone.

In order to track progress and impact, CRS led the implementation of a Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) from 31 January – 8 March 2013 covering 6,720 households throughout the country.  Despite the great surge of mobile technologies to accelerate data collection, all surveys prior to this were using paper-based systems in Sierra Leone. The 2013 MIS used Apple 3GS iPhones to collect data via the iFormBuilder platform, a Software as Services application allowing for timely data collection, monitoring, and analysis.

Lessons Learned:

  • Allow enough time to digitize paper questionnaires: It took approximately 9 weeks of intense programming and testing over a 10-month period to program the MIS questionnaire into iFormBuilder.
  • Allow enough time to pre-test: The tool was pre-tested in 100 households in both rural and urban areas three months prior to the start of MIS data collection.
  • Spend enough time on training enumerators prior to data collection:  Data collection training for 28 teams lasted three weeks, which was necessary to ensure that all individuals collecting MIS data fully understood the questions, the functioning of iPhones, and the sequencing and logic of the questionnaires
  • Provide central technical support throughout data collection effort:  Throughout data collection, a CRS Freetown-based team was available 16 hours a day to respond to phone calls from the field teams, especially during the first 10 days of fieldwork. This allowed for real-time review of data and timely corrections.

Hot Tip: Digital data collection will improve timelines and accuracy of the data. It may look more expensive than traditional paper-base systems but in reality cost of digital data collection can be less in the long run.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members who work in ICT4D for MEAL. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Susan Kistler and I am the Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association. I contribute each Saturday’s post to aea365.

AEA365 was and is an experiment – it is a work in progress. Since January 1, 2010 when we started, we’ve evolved the format, dropped ‘blog’ from the name (having discovered that the word blog frightened off a few potential authors), and updated the functionality. So far, over 200 people have contributed to aea365 and we’re approaching 1000 subscribers (we’ll have a little surprise for the 1000th person…stay tuned). Here are a few new ways to get the most out of aea365 and, if you have suggestions for others, or functionality you would like to see, please send them to me at susan@eval.org.

Hot Tip – Use Your Mobile Device: As of this month, the aea365 website is now optimized for android and iphone! I’ve tried it out on both and it’s looking great – and much easier to read and find items of interest. If you are receiving aea365 via email, go to http://aea365.org/blog/ on your phone to check out the updated format.

Hot Tip – Get a Preview of Evaluation 2010: Attending AEA’s Annual Conference this November in San Antonio? Lots of our posts are related to conference content and we’ve tagged them with the keyword ‘conference’. A quick search of the word ‘conference’ brings up a whole host of selections that you can use to preview sessions. http://aea365.org/blog/?s=conference&submit=Go

Hot Tip – Save Keyword Searches: Seeking guidance on a particular topic? Use the search function at http://aea365.org/blog/ to find posts on that target topic and then copy the URL as I did for my conference search and you have a ready way to access all posts on that topic. Know what’s extra cool? You can save that link to your bookmarks or favorites and when you access it in the future, it will automatically update as new content is added related to the search term.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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