Enhancing the student experience at Durham College

Photo by Jessica Stoiku

Sandy Odrowski Teaching and Learning Specialist at Durham College.

Each year, college students have the opportunity for their voices to be heard about their school experience.

For more than 15 years, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been implemented in the college system.

The KPIs are issued by the Ontario government as an accountability measure and according to Colleges Ontario they cover five areas: student satisfaction, graduate satisfaction, employer satisfaction, employment rate and graduation rate.

Debbie McKee Demczyk, director of research services, innovation and entrepreneurship at Durham College (DC), believes the survey is a great opportunity to connect with students to see what’s working well, what areas students are satisfied with, and which improvements need to be made.

Every February full-time students fill out the student satisfaction surveys, which includes 11 sections and 82 total questions. The questions reflect the student experience as a whole. It allows students to provide feedback on what they love or what can be improved about the college, their programs and teachers, and the facilities and services.

Schools use the feedback to implement changes, says McKee Demczyk.

An example of a change made due to high demand on the surveys, according to McKee Demczyk, was the construction of a health and wellness centre. At the time, the KPIs indicated the students weren’t happy with the facilities on campus.

Second-year digital video production student, Crys Aldcroft, believes the KPIs are necessary.

“It gives them a general idea how [the school] is doing or where they need to make improvements,” says Aldcroft.

He believes the delivery method of the surveys is good, but needs to be altered.

“There’s a lot of redundant stuff in the KPI surveys, and it gets to the point where students are scribbling in stuff to get it done. It needs to be shorter. Less questions and more to the point,” he says.

Although applying to DC was factored by its proximity and costs compared to other schools, Aldcroft says it has a good reputation for what he hopes to take away from his program.

According to results from the 2015 KPI surveys, the average quality of the learning experience from each program at DC is 78 per cent.

“We find the feedback very helpful. When we get the results back, we take the data by each program and create reports. The comments are used for action planning, so they’re taken very seriously,” says McKee Demczyk.

Based off the results from the latest KPI surveys, faculty members start working on an action plan in May and June for each program and its curriculum.

Changes likely won’t be implemented until the next school year or much later on, according to McKee Demczyk.

“If I were a final year student doing a KPI survey I would see it as an opportunity for the next generation to see improvements,” McKee Demczyk says. “It can be attributed to a positive experience.”

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.