Learnings & Shifts with the 2023 CREE Learning Series
This fall, Expanding the Bench® (ETB) offered its third year of the annual Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) Learning Series that engaged 111 learners and 10 organizations with diverse backgrounds as students, evaluators, researchers, educators, funders, and more.
The ETB Initiative is made up of many community members that include racially and ethnically diverse Evaluators, Evaluation Partners, and Funders of Evaluation that contribute to the work we do in promoting the practice of CREE. We are committed to being responsive to feedback about our programming to better support the experience for learners from all over the evaluation field. This year’s refinements were reflective of feedback we’ve received from past participants and community members. While our team evaluates feedback from current participants, we want to share our own learnings from behind-the-scenes of putting this all together.
Here’s a few things the ETB Team changed up this year:
- Paid-marketing campaigns on LinkedIn to reach new audiences.
Here at ETB, we continue to lean on the strength of the community members that include Evaluation Partners, Funders of Evaluation, Members of the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program, and Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Members that also help with outreach to their own networks. This year, our team decided to allocate a budget to paid advertisements on LinkedIn to engage new individuals and organizations that are currently not connected to ETB in promoting the practice of CREE. This decision was entirely experimental and did in fact show us how much of a need still exists for an introduction to CREE based on registration.
- Host the content on an online learning platform, teach:able.
This year was the first year the series was hosted off the ETB website. Between 2021 to 2022, the content was hosted on a password-protected portal within our website, which was not set-up to support an online learning series sustainably for both learners and our team.
We migrated the content to teach:able to set up the series as an online course, which delivered the series in a more professional and accessible setting. teach:able allowed for improved user experience for both learners and the ETB Team in a more intuitive space. We were able to internally manage the series more efficiently and effectively for learners by creating a more organized structure with the content such as introduction sections on ETB and CREE history, resource sections, videos with transcripts, optional quizzes as learning checkpoints, and discussion boards for peer engagement. Communicating with learners was also more efficient with mass email functions embedded in the platform. Each learner was set up with an individual student account to access the content asynchronously and have their progress saved to resume right where they left off.
There was certainly a learning curve for the team with teach:able and we often had to troubleshoot access issues with learners and resend activation links, which we learned expired too quickly. We also found that teach:able messages were often going to spam inboxes, which isn’t good to hear as we want to be as communicative as possible with learners. We will absolutely rely on the feedback about this platform as we continue to refine the series for the upcoming year.
- Add an introduction session to the live discussions.
With the migration to a new online learning space, it was important for our team to kick-off the series with an introduction session that provided an overview of the series, share the history of the ETB Initiative and the CREE definition, understand the structure of the series, set expectations with learners, and learn how to navigate teach:able. It was also an important way to connect with learners and provide space for Q&A before kicking off live discussions that delved into the content of the videos.
- Prioritize peer-to-peer learning and offer shorter sessions.
We previously received consistent feedback highlighting the length of each session as a substantial commitment for learners and a need for connection with other learners. In response, we made the decision to condense each session to two hours and prioritized small-group peer-to-peer learning. This shift also led us to reconfigure the Learning Guide Q&A time, originally distributed across live discussion sessions for parts I, II, and III. Instead, we offered learners the opportunity to participate in a closing session at the program’s conclusion. This session allowed us to create a space for discussing the context in their videos, explore CREE principles and practices, and address any questions or challenges. This adjustment marks an area where we are actively working to refine our thinking, approach, and purpose, informed by early feedback from 2023 learners who provided valuable insights regarding the challenges they encountered within this new format.
As we bring this year’s CREE Learning Series to a close, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the dedicated learners and incredible Learning Guides. Your active participation and insightful feedback have been instrumental in shaping this transformative journey. Looking ahead, we’re excited about planning and reconfiguring the CREE Learning Series to make it an even more enriching experience. We’re committed to continually refining our approach, informed by the valuable insights you’ve shared. Our journey toward CREE practices is an ongoing one, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to continue connecting with you in the future. Thank you for being part of this incredible community, and we can’t wait to see where our collective path leads next.