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Archive for the ‘OERC’ Category

Improve Your Presentations

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

In a recent blog post, evaluator Stephanie Evergreen suggested that people no longer ask for power point slides at the end of a presentation (Stop Asking if the Slides are Available).  Her point is that the slides should support the speaker and be fairly useless on their own.  If the audience needs a reminder of what was said, the speaker should provide handouts, with main points and resources listed, as well as links to engaging dashboards and infographics.

In her blog post, Stephanie Evergreen has 10 points for improving your presentations.  You don’t like it when people read their slides? Her first point is to remove text from slides so the focus of the audience goes back to what the speaker is saying. A complementary point she makes is that the graphics on the slide be emotional to help the audience remember what the speaker is saying.

What makes Evergreen’s 10 points unique in the world of presentation advice is that many of them are about charts and graphs.  For example, her point, “Choose the right chart so that your results tell the best story,”  ties what some might see as dry charts into the story that your presentation is telling. Another one, “Keep it easy to interpret your graphs with close data labels and a descriptive subtitle,” is a suggestion that re-occurs in her blog and book, Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact.  For a detailed checklist of how to make a better graph, take a look at her Data Visualization Checklist.

Low Cost Mapping Tools on NLM’s Community Health Maps Blog

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Have you ever wanted to be able to use mapping for your outreach needs, but thought that making maps would be too expensive, time-consuming, or just too difficult?   The National Library of Medicine has a blog called Community Health Maps: Information on Low Cost Mapping Tools for Community-based Organizations, with the goal of facilitating the use of geographic information system (GIS) mapping by providing information about low cost mapping tools, software reviews, best practices, and the experiences of those who have successfully implemented a mapping workflow as part of their work.  The blog is moderated by Kurt Menke, a certified GIS professional.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things you can find on the Community Health Maps blog:

  • A short guide for using iForm for field data collection. iForm is an app that can be used on iPads, iPhones and Android devices, and has a free version.  Using this app, you could go to different locations, gather data (for example, demographic information about attendance at your program), and view it in tabular or map format.
  • A description of a project using youth in the Philippines to collect data on the needs of their communities.  Technology + Youth = Change showed how a dozen donated phones helped 30 young adults survey and map information on access to water, electricity, jobs, and more.
  • A review of a pilot project done by the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Urban Indian Health Institute on noise pollution and health in the urban environment. One of the goals of the pilot project was to determine whether this kind of data collection and analysis would be feasible with other urban Indian health organizations, so they selected participants who had limited experience with data collection and GIS. The feedback suggested that the GIS software tools were very user-friendly and effective.

Guerrilla Assessment Methods

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Recently, the Association of Research Libraries email discussion list had an enthusiastic discussion about guerrilla assessment techniques. These are low-cost, unconventional data collection methods that gather timely responses from library users. I thought I would share some of the favored methods from this discussion.

Graffiti walls seemed to be the most popular guerrilla method discussed in this group. Users were invited to write responses to one question on white boards or flip charts; or they were asked to write comments on sticky notes and post them to bulletin boards. Questions might be related, for example, to library space use or new furniture choices, or users might write suggestions for new resources. Pictured below is a colorful example of a graffiti wall from Clemson University’s Cooper Library posted by Peggy Tyler. Flip charts also were featured in this space use assessment conducted at University of Pittsburgh University Library System (see the FlipChart Analysis and the Flipchart Survey—Our Response presentations).

Short questionnaires to collect on-the-spot responses from users were also mentioned frequently. Some libraries placed laptops in conspicuous parts of the library to capture responses. Others took advantage of tablets, such as this project conducted at Georgia State University. Sometimes the low-tech approach worked best, featuring paper-and-pencil questionnaires or note cards for written comments.

Photographs also were used creatively to capture helpful assessment information. University of Pittsburgh University Library System staff used photographs to examine use of study space. With so many library users carrying mobile phones with cameras, there is a lot of potential for inviting users to incorporate photographs into their responses to assessment questions. In the ARL-assess discussion, Holt Zaugg at Brigham Young’s Harold B. Lee Library described a study in which student volunteers took pictures of places on campus that they thought fit a certain characteristic (e.g. too noisy, busy place to study).  The staff did follow-up interviews with the student volunteers for added insight about their photographs.

Guerrilla methods may look easy, but they do require careful planning and thought. You’ll need well-crafted, focused questions. You also will need an effective promotional strategy to attract user participation. And you’ll want a well-executed schedule for collecting and inputting data so that key information is not lost. Yet these guerrilla methods are worth the challenge, because they engage both participants and staff in the assessment process.  These methods are a refreshing alternative to conventional methods.

What Shapes Health? A Story about Data Visualization

Friday, March 13th, 2015

It was an amazing a-ha moment. We kind of blinked at each other, and then simultaneously said ‘We got to do something.’ – Dr. Nancy Hardt, University of Florida

This week on National Public Radio’s (NPR) All Things Considered was a story of what happened when Dr. Nancy Hardt, an OB-GYN, used data from Medicaid birth records to see where children were born into poverty in Gainesville, FL to try and identify ways to intervene and prevent poor childhood health outcomes. She was surprised to see a 1 square mile high-density ‘hot spot’ of births in dark blue appear in her map above. Dr. Hardt was encouraged to share her map with Sheriff Sadie Darnell, who pulled out a map of her own of Gainesville.

Sheriff Darnell’s map showed an exact overlay with the ‘hot spot’ on Dr. Hardt’s map of the highest crime rates in the city. By visiting the area they identified many things in the community that were barriers to good health including hunger, substandard housing, and a lack of medical care facilities – the closest location for uninsured patients was a 2 hour bus ride each way to the county health department. You’ll want to check out the rest of A Sheriff and A Doctor Team Up to Map Childhood Trauma to learn more about a mobile health clinic, what data from additional maps showed, and other steps they have taken since to help improve health outcomes for the community.

This story is the latest from the NPR series What Shapes Health, which was inspired in response to a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation poll about what beliefs and concerns Americans have regarding health. You can read an overview and download the full report of their results at

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