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Due to social distancing practices and travel restrictions, I found myself at home with a wealth of free time over the past year. Some of this time was occupied by exploring various streaming services’ offerings of shows and movies. With the increase in my time spent on the couch, I started to notice that my favorites were mini-series.
What was so compelling about a mini-series, other than the fact that the algorithms developed from my viewing history were suggesting features in this format?
I found that a tightly crafted storyline with a few key characters that could be followed over several episodes kept me both entertained and engaged. The duration was just long enough to add interest and depth, while not too much of a time commitment. I would complete each mini-series feeling satisfied that the story arch was complete with sufficient details and subplots.
Moving from my couch to my home workstation, I started thinking: could I apply this approach of a cohesive storyline broken into small, manageable portions, to assessment reporting?
Borrowing from the small screen, I set out to make my own mini-series with assessment reports. To keep myself focused I used guiding questions and set project parameters.
1. Outline the story you plan to tell
Your audience’s commitment to the mini-series requires interest in the story. A focused plan of the key elements to include will help you craft engaging reports.
· Define the narrative arch that will unify the multiple reports.
· Identify the main characters, plot points, and perspectives. Consider how you will incorporate each throughout the mini-series.
· Distinguish details from critical pieces of information. You will focus on the latter.
2. Create a structure and style
A key element to a mini-series is a consistent style for the episodes. A procedural drama will have the exposition, the conflict, and a resolution. A romantic comedy will have a meet-cute, a case of mistaken-identity, an obstacle, and a gesture to overcome barriers. Creating a style for your assessment reports will help your audience engage with them as both episodes and as a series.
· Create a style template that includes font, graphics, and formatting elements.
· Outline the sections you will include in each report.
· Determine how information will be presented, featured, and recalled in subsequent reports.
3. Schedule the release dates
Planning the distribution schedule is important for generating enthusiasm for the content as well as applying the findings to practice.
· Coordinate the release timeline with key dates in the academic calendar. Make note of any instances where information from the reports will be critical for decision-making.
· Craft a communication plan for the release dates, report contents, and other related activities.
4. Engage with the audience
Some of my favorite mini-series engage with the fans to make updates and revisions along the way – and between seasons.
· Use multiple approaches for engaging with your audience.
· Solicit feedback, input, and future ideas.
· Share how you incorporate feedback and input.
Applying this strategy, I hope to keep interest and enthusiasm high by creating short, manageable reports for my audience. I’d love to hear your creative ways to share assessment results and engage with your audiences!
Jennifer Nailos, Ed.D., Director of Assessment and Professional Development, The University of Texas at Austin