Self-assessment tool How to measure your higher education institution’s engagement readiness?
Within the Engagement Readiness Monitor project our consortium comprising of five European countries’ representatives has developed a self-assessment tool, a toolkit of six key dimensions of engagement readiness and a total of 150 single tools, as well as a process of receiving recommendations for the use of those tools, or, so to speak, a customised roadmap towards an improved engagement readiness – all this in aid of university’s third task, the social impact. This blog post will guide you through the principles of the newly developed tools and the steps you should take once you are committed to using them.
A principle of the Engagement Readiness Monitor is that all tools offered are open for everyone and are available 24/7 on the website. The self-assessment does not require any registration on the website, but for the purposes of measurement and reporting you will be asked to provide your HEI’s name, type, and country during the actual survey.
The toolkit is also accessible by everyone without the need of signing up or signing in, but we do recommend that you first undertake the self-assessment survey and only after that engage in using the tools. The reasons for this are simple: the number of tools on the website is great and the self-assessment survey provides you with recommendations of the most relevant tools according to your answers.
In terms of accessibility, you should also note that many of the single tools are based on information and structure provided by third parties, so their accessibility also depends on third parties. This might mean, for example, that some of the research papers are not open-access, but we have ensured to provide you at least with an abstract, besides in most of the cases your institution already has a subscription to the research databases. In other cases, joining a network, for example, might require you to go through an application process before you can become a member and start benefiting from its resources.
Group activity involving the whole institution
Another principle of the Engagement Readiness Monitor is that the process of assessing or improving the HEI’s Engagement Readiness should not be delegated to an individual – it is a process that the institution as a whole should be involved in, although someone concretely could be in charge of taking it forward. This means, first of all, that the management should commit to it and provide the resources for the staff to get involved.
The self-assessment survey should be undertaken as a group activity – a discussion or a workshop, where management, professional staff, and academics are all represented. This could be difficult to arrange but is of crucial importance for the success. When we tested our tools during the launch event of Engagement Readiness Monitor in Finland, we noticed that management highly appreciates the provided engagement readiness tools and finds the process important but does not find the time to participate in it. Another point that we noticed through the small-scale testing was that isolated groups of HEI’s staff (e.g., only RDI or academic staff) are unable to evaluate other staff types’ work and unwilling to take the responsibility of such a speculative assessment: simply put, they just leave the questions unanswered.
The use of Engagement Readiness tools should not be left as a burden on an individual’s shoulders either. The self-assessment group or the management should decide on how to divide the tools to specialists concerned who would make the best of them, or even form work groups for taking specific Engagement Readiness processes forward based on the recommended tools. It could be inappropriate to assign a research paper to a practically oriented project specialist but getting acquainted to it might be a suitable and pleasant task for an academic. Case studies, on their turn, could be useful for professionals in charge of internal development, or could be directly applicable in projects and teaching. Surveys and checklists could aid accreditation processes, while quick tips could ease up meeting presentations, workshops and discussions. Management could decide to use the suggested networks as a part of the HEI’s strategic development.
Leaving some room for interpretation
The initial feedback we received on the Engagement Readiness Monitor set criticized the vast interpretability of both self-assessment questions and tools. Here are some of the reasons why leaving room for interpretation is a good idea:
- The Engagement Readiness Monitor serves whole Europe. In different countries not only the language and culture differ, but also the HEIs landscape is specific. We have noticed this in our consortium’s work, too.
- We need to serve both research universities and universities of applied sciences / polytechnics when the language in fact changes even between the different faculties / departments of the same institution.
- The self-assessment involves different types of university staff – academics, professional staff, management – and we need to make the substance semantically understandable and accessible to them all.
All in all, we trust that the conversation will concretize the questions and produce meaningful answers and measurements for the self-assessing institution. The context could and will differ from the one of other HEIs and the results might not be comparable, but comparison is not intention of the Engagement Readiness Monitor either. A comparison would be possible, however, to an institution’s own results: if the self-assessment is undertaken in the same HEI periodically, for example annually.
When it comes to the toolkit, some of the tools go straight to the point, directing the user’s thought towards a specific issue, for example: How do you use student’s feedback in your university? Others, however, are presented without any activating task. In some cases, this could puzzle the user: Could the report as such be a tool? We believe, however, that this leaves the much needed room for interpretation, but moreover for imagination and creativity, when deciding how to apply the new knowledge gained from the tool in practice.
Many, many clicks ahead
The self-assessment of Engagement Readiness through an online survey, the receiving of recommendations, and the following improvement of the readiness level using tools – this is a self-guided, highly automated, digitalized process through and through. Brace yourself for a long survey and even longer lists of items to go through. But don’t see this only as a downside. We have decided to use this format to serve a broad field of HEIs, not depending on our scarce specialist resources.
The test users of Engagement Readiness Monitor found the separate saving of each recommended tool into the summary report most uncomfortable. This method, however, makes the self-assessment report highly customizable – not only will you get solely relevant tools according to the automatization, but you can influence your roadmap by your further manual selection: maybe you need them all, but maybe you don’t find any of them useful. Don’t feel frustrated to click the pages of the survey back and forth (e.g., “save and continue later”, “save for later”, “edit answers” – take it as your liberty to influence the process!
An important single click you need to undertake is, however, the one that will help you save the summary report as a PDF file or an email message at the end. If you close the summary report page without saving the file, your result will be lost for good.
A step-by-step process
You can choose how exactly to organize the process of assessing and improving your HEI’s Engagement Readiness. You can choose between having a single discussion or multiple workshops for the self-assessment depending on the schedule of individuals involved. You can undertake the self-assessment gradually by faculties / departments / schools within the structure of the HEI if these differ substantially from each other. You can use the report of the self-assessment as evidence of your effort before funding institutions, accreditation boards, and partners, or as support of your strategy. You can launch internal development processes and build work groups around particular tools you find relevant. It all depends on you.
There are, however, a few practical instructions that we as developers would like to share with you in regard to the use of the self-assessment tool and the toolkit, and you will find them in the following videos. The instructions could also be found in written on the pages of the self-assessment and the toolkit.
Watch this short video instruction for using the Self-Assessment Tool (4:51 min).
Watch this short video instruction for using the Toolkit to Engagement Readiness (2:59 min).
The author Rositsa Röntynen works as a project manager, tourism and R&D specialist at Jamk University of Applied Sciences, Finland.
Blog editors: Fleur Schellekens and Alexandra Zinovyeva