Formal needs assessment does not come naturally to me. My instinct coming into this program was to pool a bunch of felt experts in a room and discuss actuals, optimals, and solutions. Time in this program as a whole has given me not only the awareness of the need for a formal, measurable process for needs assessment, but also the tools with which to implement them. The courses that were more impactful were
This still remains a challenge, not only for myself but also on a institutional level. Other people, such as other committee members and administration officials may not have the inclination, knowledge, or time to properly implement a formal needs assessment process.
As such, my challenges in this area are 3-fold.
Please find below 3 artifacts along with corresponding reflections.
This needs assessment report was challenging because it was difficult to deliver. Uncomfortable problems were uncovered and needed to be communicated – and communicated to people I knew personally. This was an challenging assignment and I as forced to grow not only as a student, but also professionally.
For instance, some of the problems I found were related to how communication worked within the church. The lead pastor thought that was one of his strong suits and had tried to build that into the fabric of the organization. Additionally, the interviews uncovered a "poverty of time," where too few people were asked to do far too much, resulting in burnout and agitation towards leadership where enthusiasm and energy used to be present.
An important part of that was to trust the process and frame the results not as a personal critique, but as objective results designed to help the organization meet its stated optimals.
For my final project for ISLT 9455, Formative and Summative Evaluation my group completed a formative evaluation of the ISLT 7314, Reference Sources and Services. Our goals were to to determine if the elements of the course and curriculum are meeting ALA competencies; and to determine if the elements of ISLT 7314 are accurately measuring what they aim to measure in student performance.
We used a variety of data collection methods, listed below:
Ultimately, we recommended that to achieve the goals of the class the following 4 actions should be considered:
I really enjoyed this project, much more than the needs assessment that I reference in Artifact 1. It was both fulfilling and fun to dig in deep to a learning system and determine whether or not it was actually meeting the goals set out for it.
Most importantly, we were able to identify concrete, actionable possible improvements for the course. In my prior employment at Columbia College as a de facto instructional designer (official title was Course Review Specialist, but we paired with Instructional Technologists to develop and redevelop online courses) there was no formal assessment process. This was a welcomed change. In my short time at HGSAS, I tried to bring what I had learned in Formative and Summative Evaluation to the course review process. We ultimately opted for a Quality Matters process, but I was able to incorporate what I learned into my QM reports and in our review meetings with professors.
One of my essential functions at HGSAS was to recommend and support the technology needed to facilitate learning for the online degree program HGSAS was creating, a Masters of Arts in Addiction Studies to augment their in-seat degree programs. The artifact linked here represents a summary of my findings that was communicated to the director of online learning, the dean of the graduate school, and the provost. I worked in conjunction with faculty staff to identify the optimals and propose solutions to meet those needs.
Without the proper tools in place, clunky or ad-hoc solutions stand in that gap. This can easily lead to wasted time, loss of rapport between all parties (student / professor, professor / instructional support, student / school, etc.). In a startup learning environment working from a capital account, it is imperative to keep costs down while eliminating user friction. As such, selecting the proper tools becomes a necessary, albeit largely invisible to end-users, condition for educational success.
While this was not a part of my course work at MU, I did use the knowledge and attitudes formed from my classes at MU to put together these recommendations. Throughout this process I learned to adapt the theory and optimal approaches to situations to non-optimal time-frames.
During my time at HGSAS, I constantly was having to integrate the needs assessment process into my work as an instructional designer. This was true on at least 3 different levels:
At MACC, not only have I been in the practice of running constant needs assessments on my own classes, I've been able to incorporate these processes to varying extents in my committee work.
Most recently there was a felt need on the distance education committee that we had to implement a mentoring program for our distance adjuncts. Quite quickly in the meeting it became apparent that nearly everyone there had differing views on what needs, and therefore what optimals, governed the problem. In response to that meeting I set up a subcommittee to look at that very issue and we were able to determine a set of needs, but we also were able to see that these needs were already being addressed by another mentoring program being developed at the college and that if we went forward, we would be duplicating their efforts, fragmenting the proper utilization of campus resources and personnel.
In the future, I hope to bring these skills and attitudes to my duties as an instructor, full time, faculty member, and active committee member. If I ever go back to instructional design, either in the instructional designer role, instructional technologist role, or in management, I hope to deploy needs assessment and evaluation to ensure the success of my educational institution.