Why use online tools during evaluations?

Our online and offline methods allow evaluators to interview people in hard-to-reach areas. For example, digital tools, phones and Apps allows collection of data from respondents in remote places and insecure areas, and obviously in the current Covid-19 times.

Our well-facilitated online meetings save time and reduce costs for both evaluators and respondents. Web meetings and online workshops allow diverse global teams to meet digitally to design or learn from evaluation, without having to travel. Online tools are not only convenient; they contribute to the rigour and reliability of data. Information retention and storage are digital and automatic. It means evaluators do not need to record verbal interactions nor use transcripts. This reduces errors in data entry and selective filtering of data. 

How MDF designs and facilitates evaluation services online 

Our approach to evaluations is specific to each client or programme. We involve our clients in every step of the evaluation cycle from design, to data analysis, and conclusions. This ensures that clients truly benefits most from the evaluation results. It also greatly helps to manage expectations between client and evaluator. All steps can be done by phone or web meetings.

Left: An example of Mural white board made by participants in various countries on evaluation criteria

Even with limited or unstable internet connectivity, we find our way around it. When offline, self-paced data collection can be done.  We equip clients or data collectors with tablets and software. Data can be collected remotely, by computer or phone-assisted personal interviewing, or through networks of data collectors on location. Data will be synchronised as soon as there is online access. Moreover, self-paced data collected can be designed over any time frame. It gives enumerators ample time to source data.

We match your current online skills and preferences, with the right tools. We propose suitable software and other interactive online platforms, or we can adapt the platform your organisation already uses. Our online evaluation design sessions give clients the chance to participate without having to travel. We understand clients have heavy workloads and online meeting fatigue; hence, we keep the sessions short and to the point.

We propose evaluation teams that communicate and connect online, ensuring quality and consistency. We now know that working with cross-country teams who meet virtually, is as efficient, or more, than meeting physically.

To oversee the delivery of our evaluation services, our senior consultants use standardised tools.  We produce data collection guides, which ensure all evaluation team members apply required methodologies, follow the same procedures and use the same tools. We regularly have online debriefing moments and check-ins to reflect on the evaluation process and review preliminary findings. 

Once data has been collected, we make our online analysis and learning sessions interactive. We facilitate virtual learning events, applying our interactive MDF facilitation style. We provide a safe space for contributions and mix plenary presentations with group work. Clients feel at ease and ready to interact on digital whiteboards, provide inputs on a leaning wall, in chat box or in polls. We organise breakout groups to reflect on evaluation conclusions, discuss lessons learned or formulate recommendations together. We make sure energy levels stay high by including online energisers.

In Part Two of our online evaluation services, we will take you through a step-by-step guide on online evaluation tools that MDF uses and how they can be of benefit to evaluators and organisations in online evaluation.

Interested in harnessing MDF’s online evaluation tools? Please feel free to contact our online evaluation services team Michelle de Rijck, Nadine Bergmann, Susanne van Lieshout, and Mark van der Boon, who are also the authors of this blog, for a free consultation.