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Formative Evaluation: Ed-net Masters Program Activity

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Formative Evaluation Activity :: Ed-Net Masters Program Assignment :: Formative Analysis Assignment :: ITEP Assignment


Before beginning this exercise, it is worth reviewing the difference between formative and summative evaluation. The distinction was most clearly spelled out in 1967 in a seminal article by Michael Scriven, the educational evaluator who actually coined the terms. He pointed out that the purposes of formative evaluation were to help improve a project or process, and that with feedback a program or project could be improved in a major way over what it would have been without.

Formative evaluation is feedback. Summative evaluation is a judgment of the final worth of something, usually made by a buyer or consumer. We like to say, "When the cook tastes the broth, its formative evaluation. When the customer tastes it, it's summative evaluation." Of course, both are important, but in recent years the popularity of formative evaluation has grown.

The following scenario and problem are a real evaluation problem that I faced following my return from sabbatical in the Republic of South Africa in 1996. The problem is determining how to provide a formative evaluation for newly inaugurated the ED-Net masters program.

The situation: A Personal View

Before beginning the ED-Net masters degree program in the fall of 1995, the Department of Instructional Technology had been offering degrees to off-campus students in a variety of ways. In each case, the intent was to provide an enriching degree for people who wanted to stay in classroom teaching, but who wanted to improve their skills in the use of instructional technology, most notably the computer.

The effort began in the late 1970's with a weekend masters degree program, where students would drive to campus 6 out of the 10 weeks of a quarter (we were on the quarter system then), arriving on a Friday evening in time to take one class then (6:30 to 9:30 PM), staying overnight in the University Inn or with friends, and then attending class on Saturday morning, say from 8:30 to 11:30 AM.

This program ran simultaneously with a distance ed program taught over the COM-NET system, from about 1985 to 1993. The COM-NET program used two dedicated telephone lines connecting Utah State University to provide two-way audio communication at all times. This was supplemented by a "slow scan video" that allowed transmission of a visual image (often a still photo of the class instructor, or a transparency). In addition, there was an "electronic blackboard" where an instructor could write on a whiteboard and have the image show up on a secondary TV screen at each of the sites. Using textbooks and a course reader, a class of 30 to 50 students could be engaged at a number of sites around the State of Utah. Eventually, the convenience of this system won out over the weekend program, and the weekend program was discontinued.

COM-NET was adequate for a number of years, but in the early 1990's, it was apparent to members of the Instructional Technology faculty that no real investment was being made to upgrade the system. Aside from the inclusion of FAX machines, there had been little change in nearly a decade of operation. And in some cases it seemed that elements of the system were becoming less operational.

For example, I taught a class in 1992 where video was important. Prior to the class beginning, I had produced a video for use at each site and given it to the COM-NET office at USU for distribution to all sites. At a certain point in the class, students would disconnect from the COM-NET system to watch an 8-10 minute video clip, and then they were to come back on the system to discuss it. One a particular evening, after sending a message to all technicians at the various sites that a video would be used, less than half of all students were able to see the video, because (1) it could not be found; or (2) it had not been duplicated; or (3) no one was there with the key to get it from an adjoining room. In protest I wrote to the Dept. Head, Dr. Don Smellie, about my frustration with COM-NET. He in turn made the decision to pull our department out of involvement with the system, stating that after completion of the current degree cycle, we would no longer offer our degree over COM-NET. After 1993, we no longer offered the distance ed degree.

Then in 1995, with a proposal to the Higher Education Technology Initiative (HETI), Dr. Smellie succeeded in obtaining funding to offer a degree over 2-way video, using the State Department of Education's ED-NET system. The proposal was attractive to faculty because it offered 2-way video communication, something we had wanted but never had before. The proposal provided funding for course development and provided a graduate teaching assistant to work alongside the course instructor both in developing and teaching the course. The program began in fall 1996, with two courses offered Wednesday nights. I had been listed as the project evaluator, even though I was not due to return from sabbatical leave in South Africa until January 1997.

Back in the USA, in January 1997, I was asked to provide formative evaluation for the new ED-NET degree program. I was given funding for a part-time graduate assistant (10 hours per week) and nothing else. I was supposed to help determine how effective the new degree program was and what could be done to improve it.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factpetersen. (2007, August 01). Formative Evaluation: Ed-net Masters Program Activity. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License