Normally when I talk about doing digital reporting, it is for large, end-of-project reports (see, for instance, the example I’ve been working on about Outdoor School in Oregon). But there’s no reason that digital reporting needs to be limited to these times. Setting up digital reporting throughout the lifecycle of a project can help with continuous improvement.
As part of my work with MN Associates, I’ve been helping Cuyahoga Community College to evaluate trainings they offer for administrators of TRIO programs, which help low-income and first generation students attend college, at schools across the United States. These trainings are offered multiple times per year and in varying formats (some are online, some are in person and some are a hybrid online/in-person format). For those at Cuyahoga Community College who run the training, getting feedback help sthem to improve future trainings and, ultimately, helps more students attend college.
As I’ve improved my R skills over the last few months, I’ve come across the bookdown package. This package enables the creation of digital “books” built within R. When I saw it in action, I had a realization: it’s not just for books; bookdown can be used for ongoing digital reporting.
So, instead of the traditional PDF I provide to the folks at Cuyahoga Community College, I created an online version of the report on their most recent TRIO training session.
Now, digital reporting for its own sake is not useful. The value of doing digital reporting is in the unique opportunities the format offers for facilitating continuous improvement.
This report offers three unique features:
It is incredibly easy to navigate. The sidebar on the left allows TRIO training administrators to flip between sections and quickly get to the results they want to see.
It offers interactivity to enable users to dig more deeply into results. There is a map that shows all of the institutions represented at the trainings, and users can click each dot to see which school it is. And the bar charts show overall comparisons between the various training sessions. Hover over any of the bars and you will see the exact ratings that users gave to that particular session.
By providing a link to a report, as opposed to a PDF that must be saved, re-emailed, etc., the online format makes sharing easy. More users can engage with the findings, facilitating continuous improvement.
One advantage of this type of reporting is that, now that I have set it up, I can easily incorporate findings from future trainings into it. I’ll update the report on my end with the results of future surveys and the report will regenerate with the new findings incorporated. Providing constantly updated results becomes easier on my end, more useful for folks at Cuyahoga Community College, improves the TRIO trainings, and helps more students go to college. What’s not to like?
Want to see the code that I used to make this?
Hello, nerd. If you’re an R user and want to see how I made this, the code is on Github. The best part is that it is just a few lines to compile my RMarkdown file into the bookdown format:
gitbook(split_by = "none")
render_book("trio_survey_reports.Rmd", "bookdown::gitbook", output_dir = "docs")