[guest post by Cindy Olney, OERC]
Summer is annual report time for our organization. Sometimes when I’m putting together my bulleted list of accomplishments for those reports, I feel as though our major wins get lost in the narrative. So I recently turned to an online calculator to help me create better metrics to talk about our center’s annual wins.
One of our objectives for the year was to increase participation in our evaluation training program. We developed new webinars based on our users’ feedback and also increased promotion of our training opportunities. The efforts paid off: training session attendance increased from 291 participants the previous year to 651 this year. Now that is a notable increase, but the numbers sort of disappear into the paragraph, don’t they? So I decided to add a metric to draw attention to this finding: Our participation rate increased 124% over last year’s attendance. Isn’t “percent increase” a simpler and more eye-catching way to express the same accomplishment?
Doing this extra analysis seems simple, but it takes time and gives me angst because it usually requires manual calculation. First I have to look up the formula somewhere. Then I have to calculate the statistic. Then I calculate it again, because I don’t trust myself. Then I calculate it again out of pure obsessiveness.
That’s why I love online calculators. Once I find one I like and test it for accuracy, I bookmark it for future use. From then on, I let the calculator do the computation because it is infinitely more reliable than I am when it comes to running numbers.
One of my favorite sites for online calculators is Calculator Soup, because it has so many of them. You may not ever use 90% of its calculators, but who knows when you might need to compute someone’s age from a birth date or convert days to hours. The calculators also show you the exact steps in their calculations. This allows you to check their work. You also can find formulas that you then can apply in an Excel spreadsheet.
One word of advice: test a calculator for accuracy before adopting it. I always test a new calculator to be sure the designers knew what they were doing. For Calculator Soup, I can vouch for the percent change and the mean/median/mode calculator. If I use any others at that site, I’ll test them as well. I’ll create an easy problem that I can solve manually and make sure my result matches the calculator’s.
If you want to see what Calculator Soup has to offer, check out their calculator index here.