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K-State Today

July 31, 2012

Evaluation nation: Online course analyzes funded program success in the age of accountability

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Limited budgets and an overflow of educational and social programs in need of continued funding are creating a demand for professional evaluators who can determine and document a program's success.

A graduate-level course offered online through Kansas State University this fall, Fundamentals of Program Evaluation, or EDCEP 866, will teach students about the needs, techniques and uses for effective evaluation.

Linda Thurston, associate dean for research and external funding at K-State's College of Education and a professional evaluator, knows firsthand the importance the federal government places on quality program evaluations.

"The requirements for accountability and for studying programs and documenting efforts for improvement go hand in hand with responsible oversight," Thurston said. "Evaluation is a cornerstone of this accountability. It helps policymakers ensure that a program efficiently achieves its intended outcome at the lowest possible cost."

Public and private funding organizations also want to know if their investments are producing solid outcomes, according to Thurston.

"The more knowledgeable stakeholders are of program evaluations, the more likely that quality evaluation will be required and utilized. In turn, this helps good programs get better and excellent programs demonstrate their excellence to those involved," she said.

The course will cover evaluation theories and methods, including case studies representing programs in health, international, educational and community-based settings. Students also will plan an evaluation study for their own professional setting.

Thurston, who is an active member of the American Evaluation Association, says that although the course alone will not make students professional evaluators, it provides a solid starting point for those wanting to pursue evaluation as a specialized job skill or even as a career.

"Students will be able to select professional evaluators, oversee their evaluation work, understand the results and use findings to contribute to program improvement and accountability," Thurston said.

Learn more about the course at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/education/special-courses or view all online courses offered through the Division of Continuing Education at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/courses.