The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC), a national ATE center focusing on IT infrastructure technology, manages a community called the Convergence College Network (CCN). The CCN consists of 76 community colleges and four-year universities across 26 states. Faculty and administrators from the CCN meet regularly to share resources, trade know-how, and discuss common challenges.
Because so much of the CTC’s work is directed to supporting the CCN, we ask the member colleges to submit a “CCN Yearly Report” evaluation each February. The data from that “CCN Yearly Report” informs the reporting we deliver to the NSF, to our National Visiting Committee, and to the annual ATE survey. Each of those three groups need slightly different information, so we’ve worked hard to include everything in a single evaluation tool.
We’re always trying to improve that “CCN Yearly Report” by improving the questions we ask, removing the questions we don’t need, and making any other adjustments that could improve the response rate. We want to make it easy on the respondents. Our efforts seem to be working. We received 37 reports from the 76 CCN member colleges this past February, a 49% response rate.
We attribute this success to three strategies.
- 1. Prepare them in advance.We start talking about the February “CCN Yearly Report” due date in the summer. The CCN community gets multiple email reminders, and we often mention the report deadline at our quarterly meetings. We don’t want anyone to say they didn’t know about the report or its deadline. Part of this ongoing preparation also involves making sure everyone in the network understands the importance of the data we’re seeking. We emphasize that we need their help to accurately report grant impact to the NSF.
- Share the results.If we go to such lengths to make sure everyone understands the importance of the report up front, it makes sense to do the same after the results are in. We try to deliver a short overview of the results at our July quarterly meeting. Doing so underscores the importance of the survey. Beyond that, research tells us that one key to nurturing a successful community of practice like the CCN is to provide positive feedback about the value of the group. By sharing highlights of the report, we remind CCN members that they are a part of a thriving, successful group of educators.
- Reward participation.Grant money is a great carrot. Because the CTC so often provides partial travel reimbursement to faculty from CCN member colleges so they can attend conferences and professional development events, we can incentivize the submission of yearly reports. Colleges that want the maximum membership benefits, which include larger travel caps, must deliver a report. Half of the 37 reports we received last year were from colleges seeking those maximum benefits.
We’re sure there are other grants with similar communities of organizations and institutions. We hope some of these strategies can help you get the data you need from your communities.
Milton, N. (2017, January 16). Why communities of practice succeed, and why they fail [Blog post].