Key Performance Indicators – A Reflection of the Student Experience

Stephen Draper, research and planning analyst

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are a very important aspect of life at Ontario colleges, including Durham College.  The KPI Student, Graduate and Employer Satisfaction surveys provide a unique opportunity for the college to receive feedback that reflects on student life from the moment an individual walks through the campus doors as a first year student, to the day that their experiences at Durham College help them to land their dream job. One of my key responsibilities every year is to compile the vast amounts of data we receive from the KPI Student, Graduate and Employer Satisfaction surveys to produce the KPI report cards that are released for every program at the College. 

In my two years as a research and planning analyst in the Office of Research Services and Innovation (ORSI) here at Durham College, I have had the opportunity to work with KPI data on a number of different occasions and for a number of very different purposes.  Over that time there have been moments of frustration working with such a vast amount of data to produce reports over such a short period of time, as well as moments of excitement when I am able to track trends and draw interesting conclusions from the survey results and relay those findings to others.

A major reason why I find so much value in the KPI surveys is because the data is organized at the program level, which provides an ability to pinpoint specific topics of interest for each program in any given year.  In my many discussions with faculty members and program teams, there have been a number of instances in which a program has experienced lower than expected student or graduate satisfaction scores for a particular year. With KPI results bringing this to their attention, faculty members have often had the ability to use KPI data, as well as student or graduate comments from the KPI surveys to pinpoint some of the issues being faced and to address them in order to increase satisfaction scores in the following year.

Similarly, there is also value in the fact that because the KPI surveys are mandated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, all students and graduates of Ministry funded colleges in Ontario complete the exact same survey, and this allows for results to be compared across institutions.  Whether it is comparing individual programs across institutions, or comparing satisfaction scores or graduation rates of entire institutions themselves, there is comfort in knowing that apples are being compared to apples and oranges to oranges.  It is very useful (and interesting!) to have the ability to see how other colleges are faring in comparison to Durham and knowing that the data that is available is truly comparable.

The KPI Student, Graduate and Employer Satisfaction Surveys are not perfect, and are constantly evolving in order to provide the most accurate reflection of student life possible.  For me, the value of the KPI surveys and the data they provide lies in the fact that having the opportunity to receive not only student feedback, but also graduate and employer feedback for every individual program at the College allows us to use input from current and past students to improve, or to continue to succeed in creating a welcoming and positive learning environment for future students here at Durham College.