Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a growing field, filled with opportunities for development practitioners and researchers to grow and expand their skills and experience. If you’re a problem solver, frustrated with the slow pace of change in the projects around you, studying M&E can equip you with the skills and language to bring evidence meaningfully into building solutions. With an increase in interest from funders and philanthropists for ‘what really works and why’, sound M&E skills have become an invaluable aspect of any development implementation toolkit or team, and are highly marketable for independent practitioners.
In this article, we compile a list of the most useful courses available online to enrich your understanding of M&E, and to equip you to use these skills and methods in your work. Perhaps you just want to improve the relevance of what you do, within the current development dialogue, or perhaps it’s time for a career move. Either way, this list is sure to set you on course to explore this riveting field of social systems analysis for monitoring and evaluation. EvalCareers maintains relationships with universities, online course providers and other entities. When you follow a link from our website and purchase an item, we may be compensated with a small commission. This commission enables us to hire experienced freelance writers and run our website. It also enables us to provide qualitative content to you at no cost.
While project management is vital in ensuring that specific tasks run according to plan, it takes a programme manager to successfully lead a collection of projects to meet high-level goals. The Programme Management: A Monitoring and Evaluation Approach online short course from the University of Cape Town (UCT) helps you understand how best to design, plan, and implement a programme, as well as actively monitor and evaluate phases throughout the process. Over eight weeks, you’ll engage with the core aspects of programme management across the four key phases of the programme life cycle, namely diagnosis, planning and design, monitoring and implementation, and outcomes. You’ll also explore the tools required in each phase, and gain strategies for finance and resource tracking against a programme goal. With expert guidance from experienced UCT faculty, you’ll walk away with the key stakeholder management and governance skills needed to successfully deliver on programmes of various size and scope.
Any Monitoring and Evaluation system or product is really only as good as its data. Where the courses above may teach participants what indicators are important and therefore what data to collect, the key question of how to collect it and at what cost is just as critical for successful practice. This seven course specialisation will help participants learn everything there is to know about how to effectively gather data, what survey technique is best suited to the task, how to design questionnaires, how to sample, and how to analyze and present data. If this is a little too much to take on, however, these courses are each available separately.
Impact Evaluation Methods with Applications in Low and Middle Income Countries – Georgetown University
This course begins to explore the appropriate statistical techniques in evaluating for impact. This is a more advanced aspect of M&E, but even having a basic understanding will enable practitioners to design indicator frameworks, and data collection strategies with this end-line analysis in mind. Although much of evaluation practice is moving toward more developmental approaches, rather than being tied to the finish from the start, understanding these subtleties and knowing how and when to apply statistical methods with uncertainty in mind is what will enable really powerful evidence based social practice, and create real change.
Evaluating Social Programmes – MIT (currently not available)
When it comes to evaluating social programmes, one methodology, the Randomized Control Trial (RCT) is considered by many to be the pinnacle of quantitative analysis of social systems. By randomizing sufficiently large samples, the model works with the complexity of social systems, to provide what is considered to be a really rigorous result. Understanding this method, tried and tested by The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is important for practitioners looking for answers to the challenges of how to evaluate complex social programmes, especially on the global playing field.
Effective Monitoring and Evaluation requires an understanding of how to model social systems, and how to map human and social behaviour using logic. As development projects focus increasingly on behavioural change for sustained development modelling around the nexus between economics and sociology is a key skill for advanced Monitoring and Evaluation practice. Similarly, as the importance of evidence-based approaches is coming to the fore, learning how to handle and model data is equally critical. The course in Model Thinking offered by the University of Michigan provides this important strategic foundation for a comprehensive M&E toolkit. Participants will learn various types of models, and will begin to understand how to reflect what they see in reality as a logical data model for strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation.
In advanced Monitoring and Evaluation practice, you’ll want to compare your project impact against global indices, or write about how your programme contributes to important global development goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sound M&E helps to build a case for the work you do, to garner support, and raise funds, whilst most importantly, monitoring that change you are making and ensuring that it is strategically on track with organisational goals. This course enables participants to understand and use these global indices, allowing project and organisational visions to dovetail with international development progress.
If you’re new to the field, a start from basic first principles in the field is highly recommended. Gaining a basic understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of M&E is important in this changing field. With links across all facets of an organisation or project, from strategy to implementation, beginning with an overview of the full M&E function will help to position your work, and enable the M&E function to have the most impact on the broader programme. This course enables participants to gain a sound introduction to the practice, and to understand how to identify and measure indicators, using data collected.
Another comprehensive starter course for Monitoring and Evaluation is the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) International Training Centre (ITC) course. This is a more comprehensive and technical course designed for Monitoring and Evaluation specialists, managers and evaluators. This course enables participants to apply the relevant theories to their practice, and to know how to use these to build monitoring and evaluation systems. The course explores the positioning of the Monitoring and Evaluation function, and how this links to associated areas of planning, reporting, auditing and research from a technical perspective.
For a really comprehensive and academically rigorous course which covers the current approaches to Monitoring and Evaluation, and when to apply them, try this course in Project Monitoring and Evaluation. This course includes a section on the importance of evidence in decision making and how to communicate findings for strategy from M&E practice, to important stakeholders. This course covers the importance of the qualitative as well as the quantitative aspects of M&E practice; when to focus on the hard numbers, and when stories about subjective experiences of transformation can be most effectively used to show impact, and everything between. This course includes an option of one elective from a tantalising list including Project Cost-Benefit (key if you’re moving in the M&E for social impact funding space), Intercultural Communication or Innovation.