Saturday, July 6, 2013

Meeting Student Needs in Academia

Meeting Student Needs in Academia

If Quality is important to you, then it doesn’t matter what is the field of interest.  The principle of meeting customer needs has be a central determinant of success.  That is why we take the participant evaluations from our UBC Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management seriously.  

At the end of each teaching module and again at the end of the course we have a survey completed.  It is not a mandatory requirement but we make several urgings as reminders along the way.  Generally we get a response rate between 50 and 75 percent.  We could make responses mandatory and we could make answering all questions mandatory, but all we would do is increase the likelihood of deceptive answers.  (I have mentioned this before.  All the on-line survey programs offer the ability to make answering mandatory.  Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  If you want more reliable satisfaction surveys, look at entry:  )
Anyways, back to the issue at hand.  From my perspective, I think we had a good year.  All people who started and completed the course ended up with a successful certification.  The range on performance was between 96 and 73 percent with a median performance of 88.  

There was a small group who started the course, but stopped after a few weeks.  This is not an uncommon event with continuing education for volunteer adult learners.  There are always good reasons; workload, illness, family circumstance, other priorities.  To be honest, I can’t  be too hard on folks that drop out.  Last year I started a second level conversational French course but dropped out after I missed 4 weeks due to work related travel; an example of poor forward planning.
On the positive side, there was support for our overall course in almost all aspects, from meeting all our objectives, to faculty meeting participant needs, to overall rating, and the absence of bias.  

There were some opportunities for improvement as well.  Most of the books and standards that we provide are viewed as valuable for the course and the sort of books that will remain is their personal libraries for ongoing use.  Others were seen as less helpful.

There are others that find problems with the quizzes and assignments and final examination, either because of load of work or the style of questions.  That is a bigger problem because it we want to have a course that we can provide on a certification basis, we need to be able to have an evaluation system.  Maybe it is an issue of volume.

The bigger problem is that every year there are some students (always a definite minority) who complain about our small group virtual-classroom experience.  I think it is very important and learning theory promotes small group discussion as valuable tool for learning.  The problem is that some folks choose to not participate and that can interfere with the learning experience for the others.  Some folks really get upset when their group falls apart because they have too many non-participants. 
The problem for me as the program organizer is that both groups are right and the faculty has to work this through.  We can’t force people to participate in small groups.  These are adult learners who know what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it.  Even if we think that small groups are a good thing, some folks love the classroom experience, and others don’t.  It’s not about good and bad or right and wrong; it is personal preference, and imposing our interpretation of pedagogy is clearly not meeting some customers’ needs.  It is self-defeating to try to be hard line about this; don’t work with your small group then you don’t get your certification?  Not a good or constructive plan.  It’s back to the topic of making things mandatory.
I think when we have our faculty meeting later this month we will need to figure out changes that we can balance the needs of folks who are comfortable with group participation and the needs of those who are not. 

This year we have one of the participants from the course giving a presentation at the POLQM Quality Management in Laboratory Quality Management conference in October 16-18 in Vancouver [see:  ] .  The subject will be on the value of Quality Management education as a part of medical laboratory training.   I am tempted to expand this to a bigger session with a number of speakers and follow up with a panel discussion.  

Looking forward to seeing some of you at the conference.  If you do get a chance to attend, find me an tell me you are a blog reader.  Cup of coffee - on me.

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