Evaluators, let’s add a new tool to our reporting repertoire: digital reporting.
What do I mean by this? Digital reporting is using the internet as a tool to report our findings. Sure, you say, my organization does that by publishing our reports online. That’s a great start, but only a start.
To get the most out of digital reporting, it’s not enough to post our reports online. Instead, let’s take advantage of the amazing opportunities that the internet offers for new and creative types of reporting. To do this, we should look to experts on reporting in journalism.
Let’s look to experts in journalism for examples of great digital reporting
There is a revolution underway right now in journalism. The rise of so-called data journalism has given us amazing stories that use the power of technology to tell more interesting and enlightening stories. Want to see some examples of what I’m talking about?
These pieces don’t simply replicate paper-based reporting. They use innovative techniques to report their findings: videos, interactive data visualizations, and more.
While journalism is going digital, evaluation reporting has remained stubbornly analog. A few evaluators are beginning to embrace digital tools (see Deven Wisner’s recent series on using Tableau). But, as a whole, our field is yet to appreciate and employ the power of technology.
Maybe digital reporting sounds appealing, but you’re not quite sure what it looks like. Well, fear not. Over the next several months, I will be taking a traditional, static report I finished this fall on Outdoor School participation in Oregon and converting it into a digital report. I’ll demonstrate the thought process behind all of the details that go into creating a great digital report (and provide some practical tips!).
As a first step, I’ve posted this report online, taking the static version that I produced for my client and converting it to HTML. Now, this is a good first step, but there are some serious problems with it, most notably the fact that it is really long and there is no easy way to move between sections. This shows us something important: simply putting our static reports online is not the answer.
Simply putting our static reports online is not the answer
As I improve the report in the next few weeks, one of the first things I’ll do is to add navigation to make it easier for users to go directly to the exact information they want to find. Very few people read our entire reports so making it easier for people to find what they need is ever more important.
Very few people read our entire reports so making it easier for people to find what they need is ever more important
To the degree that it helps us move beyond static reports that too often fail to have the impact we hope they will, digital reporting can be a useful tool for evaluators. When we remember that reporting is a means to an end, we can recognize and achieve our ends more effectively.