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Evaluating Teaching Software Tools

How to evaluate teaching tools

Students and teachers are both continuously tested, reviewed and ranked to ensure they are achieving a high standard and to identify where there are issues so they can get more support and improve. If we are performing these reviews with our people, why are we not doing so with our teaching software tools?
The importance of measuring progress in higher education cannot be overstated. Yet it is often overlooked when it comes to our tools. People often believe that evaluating teaching tools can only be done by someone with a strong analytic mindset. But there’s no reason to be intimidated! With outstanding analytic tools and a little commitment and honesty, it’s easy to measure how effective your software tools are in developing innovative teachers and successful students.

Which Metrics Should You Be Evaluating Teaching Tools By?

Analytics are a set of measures of progress towards a stated goal. To get a clearer picture of what metrics you should track, you need to first decide on the goals you’d like to achieve.
Each institution is naturally different. However, some commonalities always abound. Is it student retention? Year-on-year enrollment? Employability of graduates? Effectiveness of new or experimental programs and courses? Academic research output? Don’t try to focus on everything at once. Besides the monumental effort involved, it will make it hard to tell which changes you make are effective and which aren’t. Instead, pick one or two things to focus on in the coming year.
Once you know what your objectives are, it’s time to be honest with yourself about your current status on each. There is nothing wrong with being anywhere on the spectrum, as that’s your point A and it’s about getting to point B that matters. However, there’s everything wrong with not knowing where you are. How can you reach a stated goal of 97% employability for all graduating students within 36 months if you don’t know that you’re currently at 89%? Again, you have no way of evaluating teaching tools unless you have a baseline to measure against.

Executing the Evaluation

To be truly effective, buy-in is key. You need to harness the collective effort of staff members. Ask yourself this question: what’s your measuring strategy? Are academic metrics measured centrally? Are they measured on a departmental level? Are your professors doing it individually, or are they relying on external factors to feed them with information? Decide a strategy ahead of time so you know what data you will be collecting and how.
Your best bet is to do an evaluation before you bring in a new technology, and then compare the results afterwards. But what if you’ve already been using the tool for a while? One option is to work backwards. Which teachers or programs are using the tool more heavily, and how do their results compare to the teachers or programs that don’t use the tool? While on an individual level, it’s hard to tell which factors led to an individual’s success or failure, as you aggregate the data, you may see a pattern emerge. If one teacher who uses video has unusual success rates, it may be just that that person is an unusually good teacher. But if the average success rates of the heavy video users are greater than the average success rates of the light video users, you start to get a compelling argument.

The Importance of Good Analytics Tools

The utility and effectiveness of using video within education in general are well-researched and established. But when you’re looking to evaluate teaching tools like video for your institution specifically, the key is easy-to-use analytics tools. When you have tens of programs, hundreds of courses, thousands of teaching and research staff and tens of thousands of students, the ocean of data often seems daunting and unmanageable. A good analytics suite will allow you to aggregate the data and compare it across teaching tools. This is the heart of Caliper analytics, for example. Make sure your tools present information to you in a clear, manageable, and simple way. With the right tools, it becomes straightforward to go from evaluating teaching tools to ensuring that you have a successful journey from point A to your very own point B.

Want to see how other educational institutions are using their videos? Check out the webinar “The Latest Word on Video in Education: Get the 2016 Survey Results.”

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