Develop and implement a series of surveys to determine how well your district or school is positioned for digital learning and identify areas of need.
Needs assessments are systematic processes that help identify strengths, weaknesses, and priorities. For this purpose, a needs assessment should serve as a living document that guides the leadership team in mapping a school or district’s technology infrastructure, determining the time, work, and financial investment needed for the digital learning program, and monitoring progress toward the end goal. Importantly, a needs assessment will also uncover the equity imbalance in a school or district by identifying the type of access a student has at home; for many families, home internet is limited to a smartphone with a data plan, while other families will have a new computer with high-speed internet access.
The needs assessment begins by collecting data about the district’s current resources as well as opinions and needs of teachers, families, and students based on the goals for digital learning (see “Forming and Utilizing a Leadership Team“). The data collection process can take many forms, but often includes surveys and focus groups. To maximize the value of data, questions asked to different groups should be comparable to one another. Having multiple surveys with completely different information will make it difficult to analyze data or identify trends.
It is important to understand the current technological infrastructure of the district as a whole and individual schools when planning for digital learning. This includes:
The leadership team should gauge the ability and comfort levels of educators who will teach digitally. This includes collecting data about:
During data collection, seek and receive input from families and students, both separately and together. Those surveyed should represent the diversity of your school or district; this often means seeking feedback from students and families who are traditionally marginalized in school environments. While family- and student-centered surveys should help determine where there are gaps in accessing devices and high-speed internet, they should also highlight the unique talents and knowledge that families and students can bring to a digital learning environment, particularly when digital learning occurs at home. Additionally, family needs surveys should include questions to gauge family members’ comfort with assisting children in their learning, and their preferred digital learning modalities.
When implementing family and student surveys, consider the following:
Once data has been collected, analyze the data to determine trends and pinpoint areas of need within the school and district. This data should drive the district needs assessment and the creation of an action plan for digital learning.
Overall, your needs assessment will identify the current status of required digital learning program components. With many components, schools can start with existing resources, policies, and procedures and expand or modify them to include a digital learning program. This will significantly reduce the amount of work required, and also remove some barriers to gaining support and approval.
In order to develop an effective and usable needs assessment, consider including the following components:
Needs Assessment Data Collection