Just Dot it: A People-Friendly Needs Assessment Tool

DLC Open House_by_LTS 01The Open House at the Digital Learning Commons provided a unique opportunity to conduct a Needs Assessment. We wanted to know what skills the MIIS community wished to develop in order to tailor workshop offerings to their interests. Instead of administering a standard written or online survey to complete this task, we selected a visual method called a “Dot Survey”.

DLC Open House_DOTS 01We invited people to put a colored sticky dot next to their top three areas of interest. The skills were written on four large easel pads that represented four general content areas: social media, web design, data analysis and multimedia design. A fifth easel pad was included for people to write in an area of interest not included.

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Thirty-one of our Open House attendees took the survey, leaving their mark with 93 dots. The top three skills that respondents want to develop are website creation (17 dots), Excel (13), and graphic design (9).

Write-in suggestions included workshops on Photoshop for beginners, specific web development coding, CAT tools and Zotero.

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Skill Area Dots 

Website Creation (17), Excel (13), Graphic Design (9), LinkedIn (8), Analytics (8), Blogging (8),  Presentation Tools (8), Google+ (6), Podcasting (6), Video Editing (4), GIS (3), Twitter (2), and Facebook (1).

The advantage of this form of Needs Assessment is that it draws people in, rather than pushing them away as paper surveys often do. It can be completed quickly, administered in a public space, and often provides a forum for discussion because of its novelty. The disadvantages are that it takes up more space than a traditional paper survey and that you have to limit the number of questions. Depending on your needs, the last two are not necessarily negatives.

If you are interested in designing your own dot survey, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

1. Limit the number of questions. You don’t want the volume of questions to discourage people from responding. Aim for 5-6 maximum.
2. Write one question per paper. In this case, we used one category per paper.
3. Keep your options short. Respondents should be able to scan the options quickly.
4. Add a blank page. Repeated comments can alert you to unforeseen options or areas that need your attention. It also allows people to feel heard.
5. Pre-cut the dots. If your survey has five questions, give each person a strip with only five dots.

Happy dotting!