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What lessons can FE providers learn from the DfE student satisfaction survey?

Robert Dagge, Managing Director, Dynistics
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According to the Department of Education’s 2017/18 learner satisfaction survey, overall satisfaction with all Further Education (FE) providers has fallen by nearly 2% compared to last year.

With this in mind, Robert Dagge, Managing Director, examines why it is important for FE providers to gain an insight into their performance and the performance of their students, all year round:

Last month the Department for Education released the results of its 2017/18 learner satisfaction survey, which captured feedback and insights into learners’ experiences of their college or training organisation. The results revealed that overall satisfaction with all Further Education (FE) providers fell by nearly 2% compared to last year, from 88% to 86.2%. Additionally, the results showed that learners attending general FE colleges are less likely to recommend their learning provider than those attending private providers and students at other public-funded FE institutions.

The results of these surveys are undoubtedly insightful for all FE providers and it gives a good health check for the whole industry. However, rather than waiting until the end of the year, wouldn’t it be useful for FE providers to gain an insight into their performance and the performance of their students, all year round? Imagine being able to capture – in real time – data that can lead to real, actionable outcomes; that would enable trends to be spotted and measures to put in place to improve areas such as student attendance, satisfaction or results?

Accurate insights, 24/7

Whilst the benefits of industry benchmarks can’t be ignored, what’s beneficial is data that enables changes to be made – right there and then. With a lack of funding, increased competition, scrutiny over safeguarding issues and the chance of student dropouts in the first few weeks of term, FE providers aren’t short of obstacles to contend with. However, rather than waiting for end of year reports, accurate and focused dashboards that can be implemented in hours provide all of the necessary information to combat these challenges.

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A red flag on a dashboard could highlight when a student is struggling; not only prompting tutors or course leaders to intervene and understand what is happening or what changes could be put in place, but minimising the loss of ‘Project 42’ funding that results from students leaving before 42 days have passed. With FE providers already strapped for cash, preventing further financial losses is very high on the priority list. Equally as critical, the insights gained from a dashboard could stop or mitigate a potential safeguarding incident or show changes in staff performance – if a shift in student attendance or engagement is flagged in the first instance, effective measures can be put in place.

And it’s not just the FE provider and its staff that can benefit from these insights, but the students too. Showing the students specific areas for improvements, or areas where they may have excelled, providing an extra boost or motivation when it might be needed the most. Add in elements of gamification and the data comes alive even more: which department had the best engagement rates of the term? Which member of staff achieved the best exam results? Which course maintained the highest attendance rate for the longest amount of time? Using the insights gained to reward both staff and students along the way, not just at the end of the year, will increase staff engagement and retention, and create an enviable culture amongst the competition.

As easy as ABC

Whether it’s student attendance, wellbeing or results; measuring staff performance or assessing the impact of projects or courses, why wait for a single point in the academic year to gain an insight into critical aspects for all FE providers? Having access to real-time data will not only help with continual performance but will undoubtedly also benefit both FE providers individually and the industry as a whole. Simply, if all FE providers evaluated the data they had in front of them all year round, who knows what improvements the DfE student satisfaction survey would show?

Robert Dagge, Managing Director, Dynistics

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