Evaluators help to ensure that Canadian public programs and services are working as intended. Ensuring the effectiveness of these tax-funded programs means that we need qualified evaluators to measure their performance and contribution to sound public policy.
The problem is that there are few universities or government programs that train highly educated, geographically dispersed evaluators, many of whom are already employed in difficult jobs. This created a problem that Robert Shepherd and his skilled team at Carleton University solved using innovation.
“There’s always been a shortage of qualified evaluators, so we knew we needed to enhance our offerings,” says Dr. Shepherd, who took over as supervisor of the graduate online Diploma in Public Policy and Program Evaluation (DPPE) at Carleton in 2009, broadened its scope to be nationally and internationally focused, and moved it online in 2016.
The diploma prepares graduate students to assume the roles of evaluators by having them complete an actual evaluation practicum with a real-world client. Since it is delivered exclusively online, participants can complete it while employed without the need to relocate.
Our students are already doing such complex work that you have to innovate constantly to stay current and teach these programs well.— Dr. Robert Shepherd, supervisor of the graduate online Diploma in Public Policy and Program Evaluation (DPPE) at Carleton University
“At the time we were considering the online format, I needed to find a way to reach evaluators beyond the federal scene,” says Dr. Shepherd. “There was a public need, especially in provincial and territorial governments, where officials were looking for more than theoretical training.”
Carleton University, under Dr. Shepherd’s stewardship, has built the most robust evaluation program in the country. Dr. Shepherd says by moving his six-course program online, he’s been able to increase applications from 20 per year to more than 80 this year to fill 25 to 30 spaces. Carleton University’s DPPE is being seen increasingly as a significant voice in the Canadian field because it teaches students to ask the difficult questions to understand real program effects in ways that are different from traditional approaches.
“Our students are already doing such complex work that you have to innovate constantly to stay current and teach these programs well,” says Dr. Shepherd, and innovation has helped the program remain relevant with evaluation practitioners. In fact, his team of instructors are each renowned evaluators – what Dr. Shepherd refers to as the “dream team” of evaluation trainers. “These are people who dedicate a lot of time to working with students because they know how important this is for the next generation.”
“We had to adapt to a social climate that needed online teachings to a broad group of people, already in big jobs,” Dr. Shepherd says. “Helping to improve the Canadian field is a responsibility we take very seriously at Carleton. I’m proud of how far our program has come.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.