It’s April 1st. I admit, I’m not much for April Fool’s jokes, but that got me thinking about assessment failures (and potentially looking like an assessment fool). I thought it might put people at ease to hear about some of the mistakes I/we have made over the years. Fortunately, we are quick learners and only make big mistakes one time (knock on wood).
One of the most memorable was the time we accidently sent an electronic survey to students that appeared to come from the university president. A setting had been changed at the university level in the software system we were using, and no one caught it until the survey came out. In the big scheme of things, the survey content was really benign but not something that the president would really send out. As soon as we found out about it, we were on the phone to the Vice President’s Office so they could communicate up. Not surprisingly, we had a fairly high response rate (so it’s true that your email invitations should come from a recognizable person)!
We are all about helping people try new assessment methods. One department had an event outside, so it would be virtually impossible for people to card swipe or sign in. We had the technology to create a QR code that participants could use to basically use their phone to scan the code that would open up the assessment. The department posted the QR codes around the event. Unlike the example above where we had a high response rate, this time we had a 0% response rate! Not one person scanned the QR code (we checked to make sure the technology was working correctly). Lesson learned: students don’t use QR codes. The department was disappointed and embarrassed, so we talked about how they could get feedback from the staff who worked the event as a means of assessment. I gave them lots of kudos for trying something new.
Technology is a great thing and has allowed us to personalize survey invitations. At the same time, Excel is not always the best way to keep accurate data. In this case, our client deleted a cell in the spreadsheet, moving all the other cells in that column up one. We did not catch onto that until it was too late. The result is that some of our “personalized” emails went to the wrong person (e.g., Eric’s email said “Howdy Susan!”). That also interfered with the demographic data we had preloaded into the database. Assessment is only as good as the data that gets fed into it.
I hope this makes you feel better about any assessment mistakes you have made or will make. The moral of the story is to fix the problem as best you can as soon as you identify it, make note of how to prevent it from happening again, and chuckle at yourself when it’s over.