Lori Lindberg and Mahnaz Ghaznavi 2015-04-01 11:10:14
In the span of three short years, there have been more than one thousand participants in SAA’s Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) certificate program. Nearly two hundred of them have already earned their certificates. This exceeds the wildest dreams of SAA’s DAS Subcommittee. Not willing to rest on success, the subcommittee is engaging in a comprehensive internal evaluation to ensure high-quality curriculum design and delivery that is sustainable and responsive to the needs of new and practicing archivists as well as affiliated professionals. Background SAA’s DAS Certificate program is guided by the DAS Subcommittee of the Committee on Education. The SAA Council approved the formation of the DAS Subcommittee in May 2011 in response to recommendations of the Digital Archives Continuing Education Task Force, a task force convened to examine the issue of how to best support the needs of the profession with respect to digital archives education and make strategic recommendations. There was a sense that a continuing education curriculum with this focus would be well received, but SAA was unable to estimate expected demand. In the approximately three years since its inception, the subcommittee, made up of professionals from university, government, and private settings, has been working diligently to carry out its charge. The DAS Subcommittee is responsible for ensuring that the DAS curriculum remains up to date. Because the curriculum is likely to require frequent changes, the subcommittee suggests and implements changes to the curriculum (including the examinations) as needed. In addition, the subcommittee is responsible for ensuring the currency of the core competencies for a DAS certificate, overseeing the learning outcomes to ensure that they support the core competencies, and supporting the development of new courses. Where Are We Today? In keeping with its charge, subcommittee members have to date succeeded in: -Identifying and considering relevant, current topics and recommending for recruitment accomplished practitioners to teach those courses -Discovering areas for course-specific improvements through rigorous evaluation of student feedback regarding those courses and subsequent discussions with DAS faculty and the SAA Education Department regarding ways to positively address these -Receiving training by a psychometrician on best practices for exam question writing to effectively measure knowledge and comprehension -Applying a “train the trainer” approach to share best practices for exam writing with the faculty -Authoring the comprehensive exam that is required for those pursuing the DAS Certificate, based on standards and best practices both in test-building and program content -Developing a database to house and manage exam questions In addition to the great demand for DAS courses, a few key indicators of the program’s performance, much to the delight of the subcommittee and staff, are the appearance of job descriptions that incorporate the DAS Certificate as a desired qualification of applicants to records and archives positions. SAA’s successful collaboration with the Association of Research Libraries to host select courses indicates the potential for SAA to cultivate partnerships with affinity groups and organizations to provide DAS education to related professionals. What’s Next? Stakeholder involvement and commitment is especially important if we are to use evaluation conclusions for purposes of planning, improvement, and accountability. Our stakeholders include students, instructors, the SAA Education Director and staff, the SAA organization, and the profession at large. Therefore, we are currently in the process of refining recent survey results from both instructors and students to measure participant satisfaction, achievement gain, improved performance, organizational benefit, and the return on investment in the educational program. Analysis methods that have been selected to enable us to produce findings and make recommendations to the Education Committee by type of data are: -Quantitative data—frequency distribution, cross-tabulations -Qualitative data—inductive classification for themes from comments, use of representative quotations Preliminary data from an initial round of surveys taken in late 2014 involving both students and faculty indicate that the program, while new, has been a marked success. The majority of faculty are satisfied with proposing new courses, teaching inperson courses, and with SAA’s support of instructors. Some notable needs identified through the survey data are a need for the provision of access to software for instructional use, as well as the provision of a learning management system to better manage course content, updates, and delivery. Preliminary student data reveal that more than 70 percent of students feel the DAS program has had an impact on their career and they feel more confident in their knowledge of digital archives issues and management, and 77 percent of respondents are likely to recommend the DAS program to colleagues, with 18 percent neutral and only 5 percent not likely or unlikely to recommend it. Of the students who have received their certificates, 89 percent plan to renew. Along with gap and peer analyses, these data will be further evaluated for the purposes of a strategic plan to chart the next three years for the program. The lessons learned as a result of the first three years are currently under evaluation, with an eye toward the group making recommendations for program improvement. While the subcommittee has made significant strides in realizing its vision, it acknowledges that all design is iterative. We welcome feedback from the membership. Please direct any comments and questions about DAS to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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