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Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is necessary to better understand how successful the project/product is. Monitoring is about systematically collecting information that will help you to answer questions about the progress and reach of your project. You can use this information to report on your project to donors and other stake holders, and to help you evaluate, learn and improve. Evaluation is about using monitoring and other information you collect to make judgements about your project. Importantly, it is also about using the information to make changes and improvements to your work [http://www.ces-vol.org.uk/index.cfm?pg=40].

I had a discussion on issues related to M&E with Ms Anna Downie and Ms Catherine Gould, IDS Knowledge Services in relation to IGIDR online services.   M&E will not only help in measuring to what extent a service is achieving its aims, but will also help you to be more effective. It helps in assessing what is working, what is not working so well and what difference the project/product is making. M&E should be thought about at the beginning of a project and it is useful to start by identifying what questions you have about the project/product and drawing out the assumptions behind your project plan. Evaluation can then be used when you are making decisions in regard to new services/products or additions to an existing service/product.

In terms of an online service tools which can help in the M&E of a product or project include:

  • Collecting web usage statistics
  • Conducting online/offline surveys
  • Conducting interviews with your target users and actual users
  • Collecting linked in statistics

The usage statistics of a service and its resources can be collected by using visitor statistics (counter) and some tools like Google Analytics. Some websites (including the IDS Knowledge Services) use commercial software (such as Hitlist), to get the detailed usage statistics as per their requirements. However, free tools like Google Analytics are also good in getting detailed statistics. It all depends on what kind of statistics the organization is looking for-and these should relate to your indicators and outcomes. Most types of software generate statistics on various forms such as number of unique visitors, page impressions, link statistics, repeat visitors etc.

Similarly, linked in statistics will help to know how popular the online service/product is. It basically shows how many people have linked in to the  service/product.

The online/offline surveys will help in getting the feedback from the users, which in turn lead towards the improvement of a service/product. However, one need to have a clear idea regarding the methods of analysis of the data which should relate to the objectives of the survey when designing the questionnaire, otherwise many a times it may take longer than expected to analyse and the results may not be very useful!. Also once the survey data is analysed, in order to keep the existing users base, it is good to let them know the results of survey and what new initiative will be taken to improve the service.

Interviewing small sample of users over phone and or in person can also be helpful in getting more detailed feedback about your product/service.

I feel it is appropriate to adopt some M&E tools for library services to analyse their usefulness. Libraries may start using free tools like Google Analytics to indentify usage statistics of their e-resources and services/products.

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