December 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 6 // Tools of the Trade // 6TOT2
A Family Check-Up: A Web-based, Self-Assessment Program In Family Life, Financial Management, Nutrition, and Food Safety
The Family Check-Up is a public internet site where families can access several self-scoring assessment programs in the areas of family life, financial management, nutrition and food safety. The self-assessment program provides immediate feedback to the consumer and provides a variety of on-line educational materials and Extension contacts for them to access. The web-based program has several programming application including needs assessment, marketing, and outcome research as participant data are store for later analysis by specialists. The Family Check-Up offers increased opportunities for collaboration and referrals among family and consumer science disciplines.
The World Wide Web is changing the way educational materials and programs are delivered. The new electronic frontier has meant that "the locus of information has shifted from the expert to the consumer." (Smith, 1999, p. 31). In addition, learning has become more self-paced as the consumer is able to access a wide variety of family life educational material via the web (Elliott, 1999). The use of e-mail, listserves, webpages and on-line courses is on the increase. Typically, the exchange of information over the web has been one-way or non-interactive. Families and clients, adept in the use of and application of technology, are calling for interactive web-based educational programs that are self-paced and user friendly.
In response to this new demand, a team of Extension specialists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University created a web-based Family Check-Up. The Family Check-Up is a public internet site where families can access several self-scoring assessment programs in the areas of family life, financial management, and nutrition and food safety. The goals of the Family Check-Up were to create a brief user-friendly, web-based self-assessment tool for families. The tool would provide immediate feedback to the user and would have multiple programming applications. These programming applications include needs assessment, access to Extension educational materials and programming, enhancement of collaboration and referrals among family and consumer science disciplines, program marketing, and potential outcome evaluation tools.
The Family Check-Up assessments provide immediate feedback to the consumer and offer a variety of on-line educational materials and Extension contacts. The data from the assessments are stored in a database for later analysis by the specialist. The Family Check-Up tool serves as a brief needs assessment in each area. Feedback allows the clients to gain an understanding on how they are doing with respect to their family life, financial management, and nutrition and food safety practices. Once scored, the Family Check-Up provides the user with educational materials and programming opportunities available through Virginia Cooperative Extension. Clients can contact an Extension professional within their locality for educational programs or simply access materials via the web.
Besides serving as a needs assessment, the Family Check-Up can be used as a marketing tool for Family and Consumer Sciences agents. Armed with a laptop and connected to the web, agents can promote Extension programming at events such as health fairs, school functions, community meetings, or county fairs.
In addition, the Family Check-Up has research/outcome applications. Demographic and assessments data collected are stored for later analysis. As data are accumulated an overall picture of client needs emerges. Analysis of these data will assist in determining the direction of current and future educational programs.
Program impact is an area in which the Family Check-Up also can be beneficial. For example, the financial management section of the Family Check-Up assesses financial management practices. Clients, before participating in financial management Extension educational programming, can complete the Financial Management portion of the Family Check-Up as a pre-test. After the educational program, the assessment can be used as a post-test to determine whether financial management practices have improved as a result of the educational intervention.
The Family Check-Up promotes collaboration across disciplines and referrals among Family and Consumer Science Extension professionals. For example, a Family and Human Development agents using the family life assessment at a health fair could, based on the results of the individual's assessment in financial management, refer the person to a financial management colleague for educational programming.
Experienced Extension educators know that multi-problem families need a wide range of interventions. For example, a client with nutrition-related problems may be the result of financial management difficulties or financial management problems may be the result of relationship issues such as divorce. Each area is interrelated and must be addressed as a whole in order for the family to make needed changes. The Family Check-Up therefore offers increased opportunities for both clients and Extension educators to better meet the needs of clients.
In summary, the web-based Family Check-Up has multiple programming advantages. The Family Check-Up serves as an individual self-appraisal and also functions as an overall group needs assessment. The Family Check-Up can be utilized as a marketing tool to capture clients, attention since the web-based program provides immediate feedback to the client. Collaboration and referrals among family and consumer science disciplines are enhanced. The Family Check-Up can assist in outcome research by providing a tool for assessing change in practice in the case of financial management and nutrition and food safety, and changes of levels of satisfaction with family life due to Extension educational programming.
The Family Check-Up enables Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide web-based users of technology an interactive self-assessment that links them to educational materials and programming. If you would like to visit the Family Check-Up site you can do so at the following URL: http://doriant.ext.vt.edu/cf/family_checkup/
Elliott, M. (1999). Classifying family life education on the World Wide Web. Family Relations, 48, 7-13.
Smith, C. A. (1999). Family life pathfinders on the new electronic frontier. Family Relations, 48. 31-34.