Winter 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW2

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Surveys Help Program Development


Frank R. Lichtkoppler
District Extension Specialist, Sea Grant
Ohio Cooperative Extension Service
Ohio State University - Painesville

Extension workers often use the opinions of a few community leaders or a small advisory committee to determine educational program priorities, hoping that these few individuals will mirror the educational needs of the general community.

To aid program planning, an effort was made to obtain data on Lake Erie educational program needs from two relatively large Extension Sea Grant client groups. A question concerning Lake Erie educational priorities was integrated into surveys evaluating two of our educational efforts.

A mail survey of 224 randomly selected northeast Ohio "Twine Line" subscribers was conducted in fall 1984. "Twine Line" is the Ohio Sea Grant program newsletter. The response rate after 3 contacts by mail was 58%. There were over 1,100 "Twine Line" subscribers in northeast Ohio.

On March 9 and 10, 1985, a survey of 153 randomly selected Fairport Fishing Symposium participants was conducted. Participants completing a survey were eligible for a drawing on a tackle box. The response rate after 1 face-to-face contact was 98%. Survey participants were selected from a counted population of over 7,650 symposium attendees.

In each survey, respondents were asked to rank nine Lake Erie educational topics on a zero to six scale by the order of importance to them. A score of zero meant the topic was unimportant, and a six meant the topic was very important. The format of the question was the same in each survey.

The survey results have had implications for prioritizing Sea Grant Extension educational programming in northeast Ohio. It appears that newsletter readers and symposium participants were interested in similar educational topics concerning Lake Erie.

The surveys provided a broad base of opinion on which the Sea Grant Extension Advisory Committee and district specialist have drawn for educational program development.

Data from surveying large Extension client groups can aid Extension agents and advisory committees in the program planning process. Incorporating "needs" questions into program evaluation surveys may be an efficient way to obtain such data.