One cannot predict the circumstances that arise when implementing a project in a developing country. Undoubtedly, many issues related to the geographical, economic, and political spectrums of a country may contribute to the execution of a project and there is not a thorough manual for how to train a large group of data collectors. Despite the challenges that come to light during the implementation phase, it is imperative that the logistical preparation is conducted properly to ensure a successful training.
In October 2018, the USAID/Zambia Education Data Activity trainees provided a two-week training workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, to train 168 data collectors. The training covered how to conduct Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and to how to use tablets to collect the baseline data of 15,108 Grade 2 students in 818 schools, including community-run and government schools. These schools are located in five provinces: North Western, Eastern, Western, Southern, and Muchinga. There are seven different official languages spoken at each of the five provinces: Ichibemba, Chitonga, Ciyanja, Silozi, Luvale, Lunda, and Kiikoande. The Quality Control Officers and Assessors were assigned to one of the respected provinces based on their proficiency in at least one of the languages.
Training a large group of data collectors has its challenges and it is important to keep in mind that technological failures can occur anytime: Projectors fail to turn on, computers used to track attendance and other logistical information crash, or a slow Internet connection delays a presentation. In order to prevent logistical nightmares, here are some key lessons learned from the field:
- Training more data collectors than your sample target is crucial. Due to time constraints, if a data collector falls ill and can no longer partake in the training sessions or during the data collection period, it is important to have a replacement list of trained data collectors ready to partake in the training sessions or to be deployed to the field during the data collection period.
- Determine what modes of transportation the data collectors will use to reach their assigned schools prior to their departure to the field. Then estimate the distance that each group of data collectors are to travel from one school to the other to determine the amount of funding needed to fulfill the trips. In the case of Zambia, the modes of transportation varied depending on the location of the schools. Some used cow-carts, boats or combination of the two in addition to walking to reach community schools in remote rural areas.
- Field monitoring can be challenging, particularly when there are groups of data collectors in different parts of the country. Creating a group chat to communicate with the data collectors in real-time to relay important information and provide guidance when necessary is key for ensuring the data collection is completed on schedule.
- Unlike paper surveys, tablets are more efficient way to collect and sync the data. However, in the training session during short breaks or when tablets are not in use, it is important to make sure that the tablet holders power off to save battery life. Otherwise, the organizers face the cumbersome work of charging an entire bank of 180 tablets overnight for the training session the next day.