Get Smart This Summer: Our Top 5 Picks for Professional Development and Training
I was the kid who skipped recess to help grade quizzes; the graduate student who delayed getting a degree because it meant the end of school; the professor who told students that he was now in the 33rd grade and still loved school. So it’s no surprise that I can never resist looking for more coursework and learning that will help Versta and its clients do smarter work.
If you are in the market for ongoing professional development and training, I recommend seeking it through a university rather than an industry association or commercial outfit. Although there are downsides to having courses far removed from real world applications, the significant upside is that you get a level of foundational rigor you won’t find elsewhere. And you can always apply that superior rigor wherever you need it.
Our top five picks this year are from the University of Michigan. The university offers a “Summer Institute in Survey Research Techniques,” which is a teaching program of the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research. The summer courses are selected offerings from the university’s program in survey and data science.
What’s more, their courses this year are fully remote! Here are the five courses we recommend, with descriptions abbreviated from the catalog:
Course Dates: June 12-16 // Days: M-F (9:00am-12:00pm)
This course covers the basic principles of survey design and methods and introduces the necessary components of a good quality survey. The course employs the Total Survey Error framework to discuss sampling frames and designs, modes of data collection and their effects on survey errors, the cognitive processes involved in answering survey questions and their impact on questionnaire design, pretesting methods and post-data collection processing.
Course Date: June 19-23 // Days: M-F (1:00pm-4:00pm)
This course distills research about survey questions to principles that can be applied to write survey questions that are clear and that obtain reliable answers. It will provide students with tools to use in diagnosing problems in survey questions and in writing their own survey questions. Assignments require that students analyze problematic questions, revise them, and administer them to fellow students. Sessions consider both questions about events and behaviors and questions about subjective phenomena such as attitudes, evaluations, and internal states.
Course Date: July 11-20 // Days: T & Th (2:00pm-3:30pm)
This course will begin to empower students with an understanding of the importance and basic tenets of rigorous questionnaire design, as well as practice designing an appropriate instrument for a real world problem. Students will watch course videos independently, and work on a questionnaire for a topic of their choosing. Four live online meetings (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3:30 PM EST) will take a workshop format where students will ask questions, share their own questionnaires in progress, and give feedback to classmates.
Course Date: July 24-27 // Days: M-Th (10:00am-2:00pm)
This course builds on previous courses on questionnaire design and surveys. Now instead of looking at question comprehension from a cognitive side, it explores the linguistic side. Factual questions are re-examined to understand respondent memory issues and solutions, as well as time anomalies and quasi facts. Subjective questions are revisited to explore attitude consistency, including satisfaction and customer experience metrics. Alternatives to questionnaires, such as event history calendars, internet-enabled devices, factorial surveys, and multi-item scales, are covered. The course also addresses survey question translation and evaluation.
Course Date: June 12-13 // Days: M-T (9:00am-4:00pm)
This course introduces the skills needed to conduct focus group interviews. Students will learn how to: (1) Plan and design a focus group study; (2) Identify information-rich participants and get them to show up; (3) Begin the focus group, including the crucial first few minutes via skillful moderating techniques; (4) Develop good focus group questions; and (5) Analyze data considering the multiple options available for analysis.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.