Developing Your Follow-Up Service
As with any program or service you undertake, there are various stages to developing Follow-Up service:
- Knowing your objectives
- Planning and design
- Is the plan working?
- Are you getting the type of information you need to evaluate your services?
- Should you re-design the plan or the process?
Let’s consider the various aspects of developing your follow-up process.
Objectives – Learner Status and Evaluation of LBS Services
Why do you need to do follow-up? The Ministry tells us that it is
- to “document outcomes” and “to evaluate the training activities”
- to demonstrate the “value and effectiveness of the other four services” (Information and Referral, Assessment, Learner Plan Development and Training)
- for “receiving ongoing feedback and information from other service providers in the community, employers and learners.”
When you study these requirements, you can see that your objective is actually two-fold:
- discover and document what the learner is doing at exit and at 3, 6 and 12 months
- find out how efficient, successful and useful the learners’ and community’s experience with your agency was from start to finish
The first purpose is merely fact-finding. What is the learner doing now – working, volunteering, in further education, on benefits, etc.? The second purpose, however, is to gather important feedback in order to evaluate your program. It is important that we remember these two objectives when we undertake the Follow-Up service.
As we noted in the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Requirements section of this module, the Follow-Up service is essentially an evaluation of your program and of the other four LBS services. Evaluations of any kind take time and resources from your other activities. Even the simplest follow-up may seem hard to justify in tight fiscal and human resource situations. Before you start a follow-up plan, you should ask yourself, “Why are we doing this at all?” You could go back to the MTCU requirements and say you do follow-up because you must or, instead, you could explore the value of follow-up.
“Value” is the root of the word “evaluation.” When you evaluate, you measure and assess the value of your program or service. Evaluation provides important input on a program. When you measure the value of programs and services, they improve. If the answer to the question “why evaluate?” is that the results will lead to actions that improve the teaching, learning and customer satisfaction within your program, then all the effort is worthwhile.
Any good service has a good plan with a well-considered design. Of course, the objectives are your starting point, but there are many questions to ask yourself beforehand, e.g., who is this for, what do they want to find out and what changes will take place in response to the results? All the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions need asking. You have already answered “why” as you set out your objectives. So we will move on to discuss the other “four-W’s” and “How?”
There are several “Who?” questions to consider:
- Who wants to know and who gains?
- Who will do the follow-up?
- Whom will you get feedback from?
Who wants to know and who gains?
MTCU tells us that LBS agencies must “ensure accountability to all stakeholders by providing literacy services that are effective and efficient,” (LBS Service Provider Guidelines). Both your program and MTCU want to know the results of the follow-up, but you should consider whom else the evaluation would benefit.
Let’s start with learners, since they are the reason for the LBS Program. The OALCF is learner-centred. LBS Service Providers respect learners and provide supportive learning environments. They help learners set achievable goals and provide plans and training to help them move on to their goals. This also includes supports during exit and follow-up. Developing a follow-up plan that addresses learners’ concerns and what is important to them is integral to a learner-centred follow-up plan. You should involve learners in the development of the plan, discuss the plan with them and explore their suggestions for both the design and delivery of the plan. By doing this, the resulting evaluation will focus on discovering how to improve your LBS program to satisfy the identified needs of the learners.
Your program itself is a stakeholder. It is likely that your program is interested in knowing
- the value of your program (effectiveness)
- about program accessibility, delivery and content (quality and efficiency)
- the extent of customer satisfaction
- how successfully you provided transition-oriented, learner-centred services
- other things specific to your organization
MTCU, as the funder, wants to know that they are getting value for money. They want to know that
- they are getting a quality program that is efficient, effective and satisfactory to customers
- your program coordinates with other services to support learners and ease transition to their goals
- your program justifies its costs
MTCU, in turn, needs to summarize the results of all their LBS-funded programs to show value to taxpayers.
There are other stakeholders who benefit from the results of your evaluations. Potential learners and the community partners who could refer them to you benefit from an improved, valuable program to meet their future needs.
When you are developing and delivering your follow-up evaluation plan, you should take all of the stakeholders and their concerns into consideration. However, it isn’t always possible to satisfy all the needs of all the stakeholders all at one time. Remember that your program has the biggest investment in the evaluation, so you must set the priorities.
Who will do the follow-up?
Who will be responsible for each of the tasks involved?
- Who will tell the learners about the Follow-Up service before they leave the program?
- Who will complete the exit interview?
- Who will complete the 3, 6 and 12-month learner interviews?
- Who will create questionnaires/surveys for other service providers, employers and learners to complete?
- Who will record and compile the results of the interviews, questionnaires and/or surveys?
- Who will review the results?
- Who will utilize the results to inform change or program promotion?
It is a good idea, if possible, to involve a committee when devising your follow-up evaluation plan. Your committee should involve the various stakeholders within your organization such as board members (if applicable), management and service delivery staff (paid or volunteers). It might be a good idea to include learner representation, too.
Whom will you get feedback from?
With whom will you follow up? It is important to your plan that you get feedback from all the stakeholders.
- Clients and Learners: Follow-Up as an LBS service includes getting feedback from all clients and learners, throughout all of the other four services (Information and Referral, Assessment, Learner Plan Development and Training) and beyond, at exit and for 12 months after.
- Your Program: There will be things that you want to evaluate that are specific to your program. There will be things your staff members will want to know, too.
- Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities: MTCU provides their follow-up evaluation expectations through such things as:
- LBS Service Provider Guidelines, effective October 2016
- Site Compliance Visit Self-Assessment Questionnaire (provided by ETCs)
- Performance Management System webpage on the Employment Ontario Partners’ Gateway
- MTCU Employment and Training Consultants, providing more individualized service provider-specific feedback.
- Other Stakeholders: One stakeholder group that you shouldn’t forget is your community. Within your community, you have referral partners and the public. The opinions of both these groups matter as they have the potential to affect the number of learners you have in the future.