During the first two weeks of February, you have the opportunity to change the college for the better.
Annually, there is a formal, official and effective way to express your feelings about the "satisfactoriness of your college experience". And this constructively critical process actually spurs change and improvement.
At the beginning of one of your classes during the two weeks beginning on February 3rd (until the 14th), most of you (those who have been enrolled for at least one semester) will be encouraged to fill out questionnaires as part of the college's participation in the annual, provincial-government-mandated Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Student Satisfaction Survey.
Since 1997, the provincial Ministry of Colleges and Universities has been using KPI surveying - of graduates, the employers of graduates, and current students - to gauge the performance of colleges.
There are over 50, ministry-dictated questions on the survey for current students. Most of them are answered by marking down your opinion on a range from "Very Satisfied" to "Satisfied" to "Neither Satisfied Nor Dissatisfied" to "Dissatisfied" to "Very Dissatisfied".
Four of the most general questions form the basis of the overall "KPI Student Satisfaction Rating". They examine the fundamental effectiveness of your academic program (whether you think it is providing you with valuable, job-marketable skills and knowledge), the quality of your learning experience (adjudicating your professors' knowledge and teaching techniques), the quality of the college's facilities and resources (such as its library, computer labs, bookstore, etc.), and the quality of the college's services (such as peer tutoring, counselling, food outlets, etc.).
In St. Clair's case, that's 50-plus questions ... multiplied by 12,000 students ... equalling - yikes - over 600,000 pencil-marked response-boxes!
And consider the fact that this process is taking place during this same, two-week period at each of the two dozen colleges in the province. That's a lotta' data.
Fortunately, because the KPI process is a ministry initiative, it and its consultants are responsible for tabulating the results.
Not surprisingly, it takes a while to do that. The results of the February surveying probably won't be back in the college's hands until late-March or early-April.
In addition to the ministry-dictated questions, each school is allowed to put a few "college-specific" questions on the KPI questionnaire, to obtain student opinion about its local operation.
St. Clair has, occasionally, gone above-and-beyond that, by, simultaneously, distributing "College Comment Cards" to students during the KPI surveying. Not just a "check 'Satisfied/Dissatisfied'" system, they allow students to actually write out their suggestions for specific changes and improvements to their college experience - again, in terms of both their academic experience, and the services, facilities and activities at St. Clair.
The distribution of the College Comment Cards results in thousands upon thousands of responses every year. Living in the "Information Age" is great, of course, but there is such a thing as "information overload". What is, ultimately - and usefully - done with this mountain of KPI and Comment Card paperwork?
Rest assured, the 20 minutes or so of pencil-pushing you'll perform during the survey-taking process is for a good cause.
Indeed, it is for your own benefit. Almost everything that the college has done to improve itself during the past decade has, to one degree or another, been spurred by KPI results and the ideas expressed on the Comment Cards.
The compiled results of all of this surveying are, eventually, divvyed up among the applicable academic, administrative and managerial overseers of the college.
The basic message: "Here's a snapshot of your department's performance. You've got some real strengths in this or that function ... Keep up the good work. But you seem to have some weaknesses here and there ... Fix them."
Between April (when the tabulation of the KPI and Comment Card surveying is finalized) and June of each year, department heads and academic chairs on campus are studying the results as they pertain to their realms. Early each summer, each of those individuals must present a plan to the college's administration, detailing how they intend to address student-identified concerns and shortcomings in the coming year. That is followed up with a progress report to the administration every December.
Thus, the outcome of the KPI process has constructively and positively influenced almost every aspect of the college's operation.
It has improved academic programs by leading to new teaching methods and new classes, and the upgrading of both classroom and lab equipment.
It has improved services by, for instance, adding more staffing to the Registrar's Office during high-demand periods and centralizing learning-assistance programs.
It has improved facilities by increasing the number of study areas on campus, leading to the refurbishment of every washroom at the school, and boosting the availability of both computer hardware and software at the college.
And it has improved the general atmosphere here - "the college experience" - by, for instance, adding new varsity and intramural sports.
Hey, how did we get a Subway and Capri Pizza on campus? "We want new food options!" had been one of the most frequently demanded survey responses during the past few years.
In short, KPI results, and the content of the Comment Cards, have become major planning tools - maybe the major planning tools - for all managers here.
During the few weeks, therefore, just by wielding a pencil to check-mark a few dozen survey-boxes and (if you wish) scrawl down a suggestion or two, you have the power to "set the agenda" for the highest levels of the college's administration for the coming year.
Don't let the power go to your head.
To see last year’s (2018-19) KPI results, visit http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/kpis-rebound-st-clair-top-eight-provincially-most-categories
During the KPI-surveying weeks, the college will also be staging its “Winter Blues” festival. Here’s the daily schedule for those fun-and-games ...