Evaluating usability and adoption of agro-climate decision support tools

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Melissa Widhalm, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; and J. Klink, K. Kies, V. Koundinya, E. McKinney, E. Kluetmeier, and C. Hart

Useful to Usable (U2U) is a USDA-funded research and extension project focused on improving the uptake of climate information by Midwestern farmers and agricultural advisors. This project was designed around the principles of co-production whereby our interdisciplinary team interacts regularly with end-users to ensure U2U products (online decision support tools) and resources are both useful and usable. But how do we know if these efforts, which can be time and resource intensive, actually make a difference?

Included on the U2U team are program evaluators from University of Wisconsin Environmental Resources Center. Their charge is to help improve the usability of U2U online decision support tools and assess outcomes/impacts on this five-year, multi-state project. Program evaluation has been fully integrated into the U2U project from its inception. The evaluation strategy was designed to 1) help increase project impact as products are being rolled out and 2) to measure impact for accountability purposes.

This presentation will highlight the methods used and lessons learned from team member interviews, product usability testing with target audiences, outreach design and evaluation of dissemination approaches, and long-term outcome/impact evaluation. Some key metrics include the likelihood of using climate information (specifically U2U online tools), actual use of tools, application of tools to aid in financial and environmental decisions, and willingness to consider climate information in the future (not limited to U2U tools).