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Telling Training’s Story: The Success Case Method

“On the average, it is true that most training does not work very well. But some programs work very well with some of the people, and this represents their great potential for being leveraged for even greater results.” Robert O. Brinkerhoff, “Telling Training’s Story.”

Most evaluation methods for program training reduce data to averages: the average number of things learned by participants; the average number of techniques applied on the job; the average number of times a skill was used post-training. Unfortunately, this approach can underestimate the true value of training for the organizations investing in the programs.

In Telling Training’s Story, Brinkerhoff writes that, in reality, the majority of participants gain little from training programs.  They either use some information but get no results, or they simply give up after a few attempts. Sometimes poor instructional design is to blame. More often, low success is caused by contextual variables, such as lack of supervisory support, no opportunity to try out the learning, or program timing. In fact, good instructional design often cannot compensate for these environmental crosscurrents.

Yet, Brinkerhoff argues that most training programs can boast a few success cases. There are usually a handful of participants (sometimes more) who apply their new knowledge or skill to produce valuable results for their organizations.  Sometimes the value of their contributions justifies program cost. Or, if the percentage of success cases was boosted by just 10%, the investment would be worthwhile to the organization.

To truly evaluate a training program, you need to identify any positive outcomes that occur, even if they are traced to a small number of participants, and assess the value of those results. You also need to determine what instructional and contextual factors influence successful use of training information. Then, organizations can make informed decisions about continuing to invest in training.

Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method (SCM) was designed for in-depth analysis of training programs and their outcomes. The method focuses on high and low success cases. High success cases refer to incidents where participants applied training program information and attained positive results for their organizations. Low success cases are situations in which participants demonstrated no application of the training information.

Investigation of the high-success cases identifies the best possible outcomes that occur when employees apply information gained from the training program. By adding low-success cases into the mix, the method also leads to a thorough understanding of key factors, both in training design and in the organizational context, that influence participants use of their new capabilities.

Brinkerhoff’s book Telling Training’s Story provides step-by-step guidance for conducting SCM studies. Steps include working with stakeholders to define success and value; developing a program impact model, using rigorous sampling methods; and testing rival hypotheses for your findings. By following these steps, you can present a case study with compelling evidence of your program’s value. If you find your program is ineffective, the process will illustrate the factors working against its success.

So, the next time you want to evaluate a training program, consider going beyond “average.”  Check out the Success Case Method.

Source: Brinkerhoff RO. Telling training’s story. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2006.

 

Freebie Friday: OERC Data Burger Webinar

veggie burger via Flickr
Veggie burger by Dan McKay, Flickr Creative Commons license

The Outreach Evaluation Resource Center (OERC) was pleased to present our Data Burger: A “Good” Questionnaire Response Rate plus Basic Quantitative Data Analysis webinar for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region (NN/LM NER) Health Care Workforce Community of Interest (COI) this week. Thanks to NER for freely sharing the 1 hour webcast recording at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/p87ze5jc0do/.

Are you interested in this and other webinar training sessions the OERC has to offer? You can learn more about Data Burger and others from our presentation listing at http://nnlm.gov/evaluation/workshops/ and let us or your Regional office know that you’d like us to present a webinar. We welcome the opportunity to work with you!

 

Freebie Friday: American Evaluation Association Online Public Library

As we at the Outreach Evaluation Resource Center (OERC) learn more about great evaluation resources available at an even better price (free!) in addition to our own freely available resources (http://guides.nnlm.gov/oerc/tools), we will feature some of them here for you to explore on ‘Freebie Friday’ as an occasional series.

To begin our coverage, did you know the American Evaluation Association (AEA) has an online public library of AEA conference presentations, assessment instruments (such as rubrics and logic models), and more available at http://comm.eval.org/communities/resources/libraryview/? The default library setting displays those files most recently updated in the online library and offers keyword searching, but I recommend going straight to the more advanced search functionality at http://comm.eval.org/communities/resources/searchlibrary/.

Read more »

Brush Up On Your Excel Skills

If you do evaluation, you likely use Excel.  So I recommend bookmarking this web page of short videos with excellent instructions and practical tips for analyzing data with Excel.  Ann Emery produced these videos, most of which are 2-5 minutes long. Some cover the basics, such as how to calculate descriptive statistics. If you find pivot tables difficult to grasp, there’s a short video describing the different components.  For the experienced user, there are videos about more advanced topics such as how to automate dashboards using Excel and Word.

Emery is an evaluator and data analyst with Innovation Network in Washington, DC.  She has a special interest in data visualization and covers that and other topics in her blog, also available at her website.

SlideDocs help you create readable reports

Thanks to evolving Internet and mobile technology, most of us now prefer our information presented in tapas-sized quantities, preferably in a visually appealing way. This preference is having an impact on our business communication. Before our eyes, bullet points on PowerPoint slides are gradually giving away to engaging visuals. Infographics are replacing text-dense brochures and executive summaries.

Nancy Duarte, who is motivating  the world to clean up its PowerPoint presentations, is venturing into a new frontier: Written reports. She suggests creating reports using presentation software like PowerPoint, which is more amenable to manipulating layouts. The idea is to present one idea per slide, incorporating visuals, text and much-appreciated white space.

Duarte calls this type of report a SlideDoc and offers a free tutorial on how to create one (presented in, you guessed it, a PowerPoint document). The site includes downloadable templates to help you create your own SlideDoc report. You also can find Duarte’s Diagrammer here, which I wrote about in a previous post.  I believe, at this point, that I should state explicitly that I do not own stock in her company. I just love her approach to presenting ideas and I think evaluation reports would be read and heard by more people if we all started using her guidelines.

As someone who wants to stop producing coma-inducing reports, I have tried my hand at creating more engaging layouts using Microsoft Word. What I learned is this: Take your anticipated timeline for report-writing and double it. Word does not lend itself to interesting layouts, so inserting pictures, graphs, and call-out quotes is like putting shoes on a toddler. You can do it, but it’s probably going to make you late.

Consequently, my results have been underwhelming.

So I‘m excited to try SlideDocs. I already can see how much more flexible PowerPoint will be for arranging text, images, and graphs. I won’t be wasting time adjusting margins and re-positioning graphs that always seem to wander around in Word documents. I also like that I don’t have to learn a new software application, nor do I have to get my audience to download a special reader to view my reports.

Just remember: Shorter isn’t easier when it comes to reports. These “to-the-point” SlideDocs require that you know both your findings and your audience extremely well so you can communicate the most important information in the most succinct way. SlideDocs will help with the layout, but you still have to do the thinking.

How to use Hashtags to Increase Social Media Presence

Hashtag #like
like 2 by misspixels on Flickr, Creative Commons license

 

Have you determined that the use of social media channels is appropriate for your organization following our coverage of evaluating social media activities last week?

If so you will quickly encounter hashtags, which are user-controlled categories prefaced with a pound sign. Hashtags were once limited to Twitter but are now used on most social media sites including Facebook and Google+. Conversational,  concise, and consistent use of up to two hashtags per social media message can result in double the amount of user engagement compared to messages without them. For more statistics specific to Twitter and user engagement, Buffer’s coverage at http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-new-twitter-stats-twitter-statistics-to-help-you-reach-your-followers is an excellent overview.

What are some of the ways to show that hashtags increase user engagement with your organization’s message? Look for performance indicators of reposts (the use of ‘Share’ on Facebook or retweets on Twitter), replies (comments under the message from Facebook followers, replies to the tweet from Twitter users), the number of clicks to any links included in your message (ideally to your organization’s website and resources), and hashtag usage frequency.

For tips on how to track these performance indicators and additional statistics regarding hashtag creation and use check out the helpful infographic at http://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2014/04/using-hashtags-to-boost-your-social-presence-infographic.html.

Evaluating your social media activities

For public sector and nonprofit organizations, social media can be a cost-effective way to engage with users and supporters. However, social media is not without its cost, particularly in terms of staff time.  So organizations have an interest in assessing the value of their social media activities.

One great resource for social media evaluation is Paine’s book, Measure What Matters.  The book contains detailed guidance for evaluating social media use by different types of organizations. A great supplement to Paine’s book is The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide by Idealware, which has worksheets that will help you plan your social media strategies and implement recommendations in Measure What Matters.

Below are the key elements of Paine’s evaluation framework:

  • Begin with a solid social media plan that identifies specific goals and objectives. As with any project, you need a plan for social media that links strategies to the organizational mission and includes objectives with targets and key performance indicators. Objectives for social media in the public-sector often belong in one of two categories: helping users find information they need; or building user awareness, engagement, or loyalty. (To inspire you, The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide provides a list of potential objectives on page 52.)
  • Define your target audience: Organizations often have many stakeholder groups, so you want to identify the groups most attuned to social media. On page 54 of The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, you’ll find a worksheet for narrowing down your stakeholder audiences to those most receptive to your social media activities.
  • Pick your metrics: Metrics such as views, followers, and measures of engagement with online content will help you monitor reach. Conversions, defined as the actions you want your social media followers to complete, might include becoming members of your organization or actively recommending your organization to colleagues or friends.
  • Identify a source for benchmarks. Benchmarks provide a basis for comparison to assess progress. Organizations often use their own histories as benchmarks, comparing progress against baseline measures. You also may have access to data from a competing or peer organization that you can use for comparison.
  • Pick a measurement tool: Paine’s book describes different measurement methods for evaluating social media, such as content analysis, web analytics, or surveys.

For more information, check out the resources used for this blog post:

  • Katie Delahaye Paine, Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2011.
  •  Idealware. The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, 2013.

Healthy People 2020 and Infographics

HealthyPeople.gov provides science-based 10 year national objectives to help improve the health of all Americans. These objectives are focused on encouraging collaborations across communities, empowering people to make individual health choices, and measuring the impact of prevention activities.  Currently we are in the time frame referred to as Healthy People 2020 with goals and objectives to achieve by the year 2020 listed at their website http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about

There are 42 topic areas with over 1,200 objectives for Healthy People 2020,  so a smaller subset of objectives has been identified as Leading Health Indicators (LHI) to communicate high-priority health issues and actions to take for addressing them. These LHI objectives are included within the 12 areas of access to health services, clinical preventative services, environmental quality, injury and violence, maternal, infant and child health; mental health, nutrition, physical activity and obesity; oral health, reproductive and sexual health, social determinants, substance abuse, and tobacco.

Secondhand smoke

Monthly Leading Health Indicators (LHI) infographics help visually communicate Healthy People 2020 data, such as the one above about children’s exposure to secondhand smoke based on health insurance status, and are freely available for download and use by the public at http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/infographicGallery.aspx. The infographics are arranged in chronological order, most recent month available at the top, with the LHI area included so you can quickly identify and click those health topics of interest to you and your programs. They are also a great source of data, both in raw downloads and these visualizations, for presentations and publications for your health information outreach programs that are related to the LHI areas. Be sure to sign up for their monthly newsletter at the infographic site so you won’t miss the latest one each month!

 

 

4,000+ free diagram templates

“If people can see what you’re saying, they’ll understand it.”  This quote comes from the Perspectives page of Duarte.com, which now offers a free Diagrammer that provides more than 4,000 free, downloadable diagram templates to help you present your evaluation findings visually.

A handy directory helps you determine the type of diagram you need based on the data relationships you want to portray. You then choose a diagram and download it into a PowerPoint-ready image that is completely customizable. You add text, change font size and color, even move or eliminate parts of the diagram. The PowerPoint slide can be inserted into a slide file for an oral presentation or saved as an image and inserted into a written evaluation report.

I tried my hand at creating a diagram to show how NN/LM train-the-trainer programs encourage the spread of health information resource use. This is what I came up with:

Diagrammer image

I learned about this tool  from an AEA365 blog post by Sheila Robinson. As an example, she included an infographic she designed using the Diagrammer to illustrate American Evaluation Association learning opportunities.

Duarte.com is the company of Nancy Duarte, a master presentation designer who has become a favorite among evaluators on a mission to get their evaluation reports understood and used. If you are interested in punching up the impact of your presentations, you also might want to check out her book “Resonate” (2010, Wiley & Sons) or watch her popular TEDtalk The Secret Structure of Great Talks. Many of her principals can be applied to oral or written presentations.

 

 

 

New Journal: Systematic Reviews

Librarians’ expert searching skills provide some great opportunities for collaboration with researchers. Biomed Central’s new open access Systematic Reviews journal is about a specialized type of expert searching that librarians can provide for their communities. More than a source of protocols and a record of others’ work, this journal has great potential for those of us in academia who want to publish articles to share information with our colleagues about what we have done.

Here’s more information from the Aims and Scope:

Systematic Reviews encompasses all aspects of the design, conduct and reporting of systematic reviews. The journal aims to publish high quality systematic review products including systematic review protocols, systematic reviews related to a very broad definition of health, rapid reviews, updates of already completed systematic reviews, and methods research related to the science of systematic reviews, such as decision modeling. The journal also aims to ensure that the results of all well-conducted systematic reviews are published, regardless of their outcome.

It is a long-term goal of the journal to ensure all systematic reviews are prospectively registered in an appropriate database, such as PROSPERO, as these resources for registration become available and are endorsed by the scientific community.

Article types include:

  • Research Articles
  • Commentaries
  • Letters
  • Methodologies
  • Protocols
  • Review Updates

The editors-in-chief comprise an international group hailing from the University of Ottawa; the RAND corporation and UCLA; and the University of York.

Take a look at this journal! It could be a source of inspiration for any librarian whose emphasis is on expert searching.