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NCDAE= The National Center on Disability and Access to Education

Enhancing the lives of people with disabilities
by promoting web accessibility in education

All Roads Lead to Rome

We are hearing a lot from the 46 campuses involved as Participating Institutions in the GOALS Benchmarking and Planning Process. A surprising and wonderful element we have uncovered is the different ways campuses have approached completion of their institution wide self-study. It seems fitting to share this information with others, especially those new to the process. Because, while different processes have been used to achieve successful results, it appears that all roads lead to Rome in using the tool to get to intended outcomes.

By way of background, the GOALS Benchmarking and Planning Tool was created to support asynchronous communication within an institutional study team. The team leader would facilitate the rest of the team as together, they determine their institution’s response to self-study questions as well as their next steps (i.e., their Action Plan for moving forward). It was thought that by developing the tool this way it would support anytime anywhere participation, thus enabling institutions to include members from across campus (or campuses) and eliminating the need to “schedule” meetings.

While our decision was made to provide the greatest flexibility to an institution, we have heard that it is not always the best match. Some teams found difficulties in getting team members to engage in an asynchronous process in a timely way. Some members had never encountered online collaborative work before and this became an issue for them. For others, timelines for completion were not well stated. Also, for some, this self-study was an easy task to set aside either due to competing demands on their time or because the items they were asked to complete were unfamiliar to them (e.g., staff members from the Library might be unaware of how to respond to items regarding procurement policies). When others on the team waited for responses, this created an endless game of “hot potato” at some institutions. All in all, for many institutions, it made for a protracted process that took way too long to complete.

To avoid this, institutions began using creative processes to complete the self-study and action plan. These alternative processes were a superior fit to their needs and circumstances. Here are alternate ways institutions are engaging with the Benchmarking and Planning Tool with good outcomes.

  1. Some institutions have jettisoned the idea of the team leader facilitating an asynchronous study team altogether. Instead they brought everyone into a face-to-face meeting. It seems that this resolves issues of waiting for some to finish items and enables a large volume of work to be completed succinctly. Variations on this method include:
    1. A full-day retreat in a meeting room on campus
    2. Face-to-face meetings scheduled well in advance for 2 hours each week for a month.
    3. Use of technology to create face-to-face meetings if participants are not co-located (e.g., Adobe Connect; Skype video chat with multiple connections; PolyCom)
  2. At one institution, the Team Leader recognized that it was not the most effective or efficient use of staff time to have everyone participate throughout all Indicators. So she identified pertinent members to participate at key points in time. For example, she only engaged Human Resources as they discussed how they are securing and retaining technical personnel with expertise in accessibility. Each week, she would provide assignments to different members of the team, and she made sure everyone had completed these assignments prior to the next week. In this way the expertise of the diverse stakeholders was captured without putting them in situations where they felt they did not have contributions to make. Moreover, she was able to shepherd the process along with timely completion.

If you have used an alternate process while engaged in the GOALS self-study at your institution, please share it here. Others will benefit from hearing how local solutions improved your ability to complete this important process.

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