Evaluation was an important part of NDPCAL's approach. It set up two idependent evaluations as well as building in evaluation through its regular project reviews and assessments. The two independent evaluations were an educational evaluation carried out by the University of East Anglia and a financial evaluation by Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co.
The National Development Programme for Computer Aided Learning placed great emphasis on evaluation and made it a contractual requirement for every one of its thirty projects.
As Hooper (1975) makes clear, evaluation was important to the national programme for two very good reasons. First because it was, for its time, at £2M a very costly development programme happening at a time of severe public sector constaints. Second, the approach taken by the programme was to develop projects through different phases of feasability, design and development. The Programme Directorate used evaluation to step their funding so that project progress was dependent on positive outcomes from the four-monthly reviews. It was also a contractural obligation for each project to have its own internal evaluation linked to Programme Committee appraisals.
Alongside this system the programme appointed two independent evaluators as an additional resource.
In terms of its two major aims of institutional assimilation and generalisation from its experience the National Programme may be judged broadly successful. (MacDonald, 1977, p.188)
This was carried out by Barry MacDonald and a team from the University of East Anglia. Barry MacDonald was initially contracted as a consultant but after six months a £94,303 contract for a three year evaluation project was awarded to him and a team from UEA who called themselves UNCAL ( 'Understanding Computer Assisted Learning) as a conscious play on the TV series "The Men from UNCLE", hoping to remove the tension of evaluators acting as spies from the centre (MacDonald and Kemmis,1975). As MacDonald and Kemmis (1975) explained UNCAL was in part a 'primary' evaluation, collecting and presenting its own data, and in part a 'meta' evaluation, assessing the evaluation efforts and reports of those within the National Programme who have evaluation responsibilities.
MacDonald (1977, p182) reports some findings about CAL in general:
The financial evaluation was carried out by John Fielden of the management consultants, Peat Marwick, Mitchell & Co. As Fielden explains (1977, p.190) the decision to consider financial implications was down to Richard Hooper whose rationale for a financial evaluation was mainly based on the fact that CAL was a high cost innovation and that most evaluations, particularly in the USA, had avoided considering cost-implications.
Fielden reported (1977, p.195) some tentative but interesting conclusions froim his study:
There were clearly some tensions both between the projects and the independent evaluators.
Hooper R., 1975, Two years On, National Development Programme in Computer Aided Learning, Report of the Director, London: CET
Hooper R., 1977, An Introduction to the National Development Programme in Computer Assisted Learning, British Journal of Educational Technology, 8-3 p165-175.
Macdonald, B and Kemmis, S (1976) Macro-project and Meta-evaluation – the UNCAL Experience. Research Intelligence, 2. pp. 36-39 (online version)
MacDonald B., 1977, The Educational Evaluation of NDPCAL, British Journal of Educational Technology, 8-3 p176-189.
Fielden J., 1977, The Financial Evaluation of NDPCAL, British Journal of Educational Technology, 8-3 p190-200.