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

TAG | tech tools

Hello! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, aea365’s Leader Volunteer Curator. I teach Program Evaluation Methods at University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, and am a grant coordinator for Greece Central School District in Rochester, NY. In my spare time, I read, learn and blog about evaluation, and it’s no exaggeration to say I never come away from my computer, book, article on evaluation without  learning something. “Ancora imparo” is attributed to Michelangelo in his late 80s!

As I’m once again preparing my syllabus, I’m reflecting on a wealth of free and low-cost evaluation resources. Since I always want to improve the course for my students, I’m look for new readings and activities to ensure my course is up-to-date, and that my students learn about the “big names” and big issues in the evaluation community today.

Lesson Learned: I’m convinced evaluators are the most collegial, collaborative, and generous people ever, and I’m always impressed with how many of them are willing to share their knowledge and resources with everyone.

Hot Tips:

1.) Fill your toolbox! Susan Kistler, AEA’s Executive Director Emeritus, has contributed numerous aea365 posts on free or low-cost technology tools. Search her name, or glance through aea365 archive for links and descriptions.

2.) Join the conversations! Mentioned before, but definitely worth another look: AEA’s LinkedIn discussion, and EvalTalk – two places I’ve learned about the multitude of websites, textbooks, and articles on evaluation, many of which have made their way into my course. Here’s a link to a discussion on “Comprehensive set of websites on evaluation and research methods.” I recently asked EvalTalk for some “must-read journal articles for program evaluation students” and got great responses; some people even sent me their syllabi!  Cool trick: I’ve copied rich EvalTalk and LinkedIn discussions on a topic of interest (e.g. pre- and post-testing) to share with students as examples of the types of discussions evaluators have in “the real world” of evaluation work.

3.) Cull from collections! Who doesn’t love one-stop shopping? My favorite place for great collections is AEA’s site. Check out everything under the Reading, Learning, and Community tabs and all the links on the main page. Check out Evaluator and Evaluation blogs and evaluators on Twitter. Chris Lysy maintains a large collection of evaluation-related blogs at EvalCentral. Gene Shackman has amassed probably the largest collection of Free Resources for Program Evaluation and Social Research Methods.

4.) “Extend” your learning! Google “evaluation” + “extension” and find a universe of free tools and resources from university extension programs. Here are just a few:  University of Wisconsin-Extension, Penn State Extension, NC Cooperative Extension, K-State research and Extension. I stumbled upon this collection at University of Kentucky’s Program Development and Evaluation Resources.

Apprendimento felice! (Happy learning!)

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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Hello!  We’re Michelle Landry and Judy Savageau from the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Health Policy and Research.

As Sean Allen Levin suggested in a recent aea365 post, organizing an evaluation project or multiple projects can be daunting. The details of timelines, responsibilities, and deliverables can easily be lost if they are only in the project manager’s head. As with any project, maintaining a quality and structured work environment benefits the entire team and clients. To expand on Sean’s blog, we’d like to share hot tips and lessons learned during our recent review of project management tools and how it’s brought to light not only the vast sea of options, but also what our needs/wants are from the tool.

Lesson Learned: Work backwards to determine your specific needs. What outputs are most useful? What information is needed to report regularly? How large is the project or how many projects need to be captured in the database?

Lesson Learned: Determine if you have a budget or spending limit to support a new tool. There are affordable options that aren’t readily obvious. However, if you have the budget, there are options to satisfy your every whim.

Hot Tip: For no/low cost options, look to Microsoft Office. This is affordable because most users already have the software; e.g., MS Excel, MS Access, and MS Project, which have onsite relational databases with ranges in user-friendliness/abilities. A number of software vendors sell robust project management tools, but they come with a price tag. We reviewed tools used by our university colleagues; e.g., Quickbase (now piloting) and Journyx. Many others are available with websites offering comparisons among the applications.

Lesson Learned: Review your needs against the software’s options. Many websites allow testing project management tools through a virtual tour. Take advantage of this; it’s best to see how user-friendly the software is before purchasing.

Lesson Learned:  Each application has budgetary implications, so if, of necessity, you’re budget conscious, check into the vender’s software offerings. Is it a one-time cost or license needing annual renewal? Does it require a monthly user fee?

Hot Tip: Customize, customize, customize… Most software packages are customizable. Do not take it “out of the box” and assume that’s all you get. Many vendors offer customization options to meet your needs. Customizing can take a few rounds as test-driving one change often uncovers additional changes. Customizing the software may reduce frustration and better meet your needs. See if there’s someone “in-house” who can customize your software before paying the vendor – a great budget saver!

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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I am David Fetterman, past-president of the American Evaluation Association and co-chair of the Collaborative, Participatory and Empowerment Evaluation TIG.  I have 25 years of experience at Stanford University.  Fetterman & Associates is my international evaluation consulting firm. I am also a professor of education in the School of Education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

I have worked together with my friend and colleague Abraham Wandersman and many students and colleagues on empowerment evaluation issues, articles, and books for over 17 years.   I would like to share a few tips, tools, and resources with you based on our experience.

Rad Resources:

Accumulated tools, videos, guides, and even arguments connected with empowerment evaluation.

Latest projects, announcements, awards, and publications related to empowerment evaluation.

A way to invite collaboration.  Everyone you invite can create their own web page at the same site.

This was a fun debate with my colleagues – the two Michaels.  Folks were impressed with it in part because it was both informative and civil.

Rad Resource: Recent Article: Academic Medicine

Fetterman, D.M., Deitz, J., and Gesundheit, N. (2010).  Empowerment evaluation: a collaborative approach to evaluating and transforming a medical school curriculum.  Academic Medicine, 85(5):813-820.

It is a case example of how empowerment evaluation was applied to the Stanford University School of Medicine. This project demonstrated the statistical significance of our work.

Rad Resources: New tools for videoconferencing include:

Videoconference with colleagues for free. Conversational look to it since the screen shots are side by side.  Share the exchange with others or produce brief taped sessions for webinars and related training exercises.  Helps maintain contact with folks in the field at their site and build capacity.

Videoconference using your Gmail account and keeps everything integrated, smooth, and seamless.  Not as sophisticated as ooVoo or Skype but once installed it is part of the email system – thus you and your colleagues are more likely to use it.

This is a tool to share computer data and presentations remotely. Project your presentation on a colleagues’ computer and if they are part of a remote group they can project it on their LCD projector.  Access files on colleagues computer with their permission.  Share files in a collaborative fashion. Build collaboration and capacity because folks in the field can help each other out and share files with this device.

I hope you enjoy some of these tools. I have found them to make empowerment evaluation projects much easier and encourage collaboration and cooperation.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Collaborative, Participatory & Empowerment Evaluation (CPE) Week with our colleagues in the CPE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our CPE members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources list where we’ll be highlighting CPE resources. 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.

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