Unplugged, but in touch: Program evaluation in the digital age

Rebecca (Becky) Harth

Session type: Regular forum session
Session duration: 60 minutes

Key words: feedback, program, evaluation, staff development, outcomes, digital, technology, young people, adolescents, outdoor education, adventure


Program evaluation can be frustrating, intimidating and time-consuming. It adds work for staff and the attempt to quantify an organic experience can sometimes feel like a betrayal of the experience itself. Yet evaluation is key to making sure a program is effective and helping the wider community to understand the value of therapeutic and educational experiences in the outdoors.

The Outdoor Education Group (OEG) is a large outdoor education organisation that uses digital technology to collect feedback from young people and client staff. Our approach to evaluation needs to be supportive for a team of over 100 field staff, simple enough to do in the field, and easy to implement on a large scale. Data and continuous feedback loops are used to understand program impact, coach staff, improve programs and advocate for the value of outdoor education within client communities.

Over the course of 2018, over 17,000 young Australians and 1,800 client staff gave their feedback on outdoor education experiences ranging from 2 to 34 days in length. Their insights were honest, sometimes funny and often incredibly insightful.

We will share our digital feedback journey, lessons learned along the way and some benefits of using technology for ongoing evaluation and feedback systems. You will have the opportunity to take a digital survey and discuss how digital technologies might support your organisation’s program evaluation strategies.

About the presenter/s

Becky grew up on Djabugay country in Far North Queensland. She works as a Quality Assurance Coordinator for a large outdoor education organisation, where she uses technology and systems thinking to manage program evaluations and support staff development across a large team. She studied a BSc (Hons) at the University of Queensland and University of Wollongong, with a major in psychology and a primary teaching diploma. Becky is a NSW & ACT AABAT representative.