Data Collection Toward a 100 Percent Knowledge Rate

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

Is a 100 percent knowledge rate possible with a first-destination survey? That’s to be determined each year and with each effort. Due-diligence requires universities to extend maximum effort to try to achieve a 100 percent knowledge rate for all our students. The task of collecting and reporting data is a huge undertaking trusted to many career offices. Whether you are trying to meet the NACE deadline for data collection or your own office deadline, creating a systematic approach and incorporating “best practices” into your labor makes capturing career outcomes more manageable.

Lay the Foundation

Its essential to be able to analyze data with ease, as well as know ahead of time what questions to include in your outreach attempts to students. Follow the suggestions outlined by NACE in your database fields and match it to your first destination surveys. Bring in your school’s technology department to help create the database, as well as the electronic surveys that capture the responses fed into it. Once that’s done, a time line for when, where, and how you will collect data can be drawn out. Cap and Gown surveys, employer surveys, surveys to the campus community, classroom visits, social media searches, follow-up student surveys, calls and e-mails have to be systematically laid out on a timeline. Learn assessment best practices by attending conferences and events to know how others are capturing information. Make sure you use the NACE links on the topic and talk to Ed Koc, NACE’s Director of Research, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs or his great team if you have questions. Koc is offering a webinar on the first-destination initiative in early January for NACE members. A solid foundation and plan of action will serve you well in the long run.

Designate a Point Person

If the college community knows that career outcome information has to be sent to a designated individual within their school, then more outcomes can be captured. Often university staff members possess career outcome information and never pass it onto career services. The human resources and admissions departments within your school may have first-destination information on numerous students who were hired or went onto graduate school at your institution. The designated point person should monitor the first destination survey numbers, solicit information from university sources consistently, and create a strategy for follow-up with graduates. It takes many people, numerous efforts, and even call-centers to capture data for bigger schools. But designate an expert to manage the whole process, set the timeline, and be the “face” of the initiative in order to drive the results.

It’s Not a Career Services Issue, It’s a University Issue

Helping students find opportunities and creating a path for successful outcomes is not just a career services goal. Higher education is a partnership of many units working collaboratively to ensure retention and capture every student’s career outcome. Long before first-destination surveys go out, building relationships with the campus community is where data collection really starts for career services. Meetings with the university community to build bridges, foster relationships, and outline the process is crucial. Students share career outcome information with professors, academic advisers, financial aid representatives, leaders of student organizations, and college staff. These sources become vital in the collection process and have to be included in the journey.

Keep the Community Vested

It is essential to make survey efforts and progress visible to the campus community. Every dean, faculty member, and university staff  member should know what the career office does. Career outcome and knowledge rate information should be displayed in infographics, charts, and reports on a regular basis with college partners. If others understand what goes on behind the scenes and where the numbers are, then they will be more apt to assist with first-destination information. It also keeps departments interested and looking forward to the next update.

Mandate Attendance 

Universities that promote, encourage, or even mandate attendance at career service events and one-to-one meetings with a career counselor can create more successful outcomes. Students that have worked with career offices feel more comfortable sharing career outcomes, and should be told that post-graduate follow-up will take place after graduation. Career services also helps students find pre-professional experience through internships that build resumes and lead to full-time offers. They offer networking opportunities with employers and alumni that have job leads every semester. Increased student engagement with career centers increases the “knowledge rate,” and also increases “outcomes.” Its a simple formula.

Multiple out-reach efforts to capture information throughout the year are made to graduating seniors, college partners, and employers to track career outcomes. I would love to hear your school’s best practices and ideas to reach that “100 percent knowledge rate.” Wishing each of you success in reaching your university’s goal and capturing outcomes. 

The Assessment Diaries: 5 Questions to Ask Before Creating a Survey

Desalina Allen

A post by NACE Guest Blogger, Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

In addition to some of the methods I’ve already mentioned surveys can be a great way to collect both quantitative and qualitative information from students, employers and other key career services stakeholders. There are definitely questions you should ask yourself before deciding that a survey is the right collection method, but I’ll save those for another post.

For now, let’s assume you are dead set on surveying and you just don’t want to end up like this guy:

Image courtesy of GifBin.com

Here are five questions to ask yourself before you start designing and distributing your survey:

What information do I absolutely need to collect? Consider whether you already have access to accurate information on students like major, department and graduation date before asking these questions in your survey.  If you do, you can ask for a student ID and match up the two sets of information.  Many of the online survey software platforms also allow you to upload a list of survey recipients and send each one a customized hyperlink so you don’t need to collect name and contact information. When we survey, we rarely ask for school, major or grad date because we often have this information updated via our Career Services Management System and/or registrar records.  Two or three fewer questions, now that’s exciting.

What is your population? When you review your results or write your report, what is the group that you are trying to describe?  Will it be students who attended a resume seminar (more specifically: a resume seminar on December 13 or any resume seminar throughout the year)? Is it all juniors, or only juniors who have completed summer internships?  Having a clear understanding of  your population, will help you answer the next question which is:

How many responses do I need? Depending on your survey method, budget and population size you may not get responses from everyone.  This is OK – statistics allows you to describe your population without having data from everyone. This chart is really helpful – find the approximate size of your population on the far left column and then find the corresponding number of responses necessary to describe that population.  For example if you are trying to describe a population of 25,000 undergraduate students, you may only need between 700 and 10,000 responses – depending on how certain you want assumptions to be.  You should also be sure that there is not a difference in the group that did and did not respond to your survey.  For example, if all of your responses came from people who attended a particular event, your results may be skewed as these people may differ from the total population.  Finally, do some benchmarking and check past reports to get an idea about the response rate that is considered reasonable.  In the example above, a 40 percent response rate (10,000/25,000) may be acceptable for a student satisfaction survey but not for your annual first destination survey.

How will I collect this information?  Websites like SurveyMonkey offer free accounts and many institutions have licenses for software such as Qualtrics (my platform of choice). Of course there is always the old fashioned paper and pencil method, which is still a very effective way to collect information. Career Service professionals may also check to see if their existing Career Services Manager system offers surveying features (Symplicity’s NACElink system offers this as an add-on).

Will multiple methods be required to achieve the desired number of responses? Using one method of surveying may not be enough to achieve your target response rate or get the information you need.  Consider using a combination of paper forms, online surveying, phone surveying, in-person interviews, and even online research. My fellow NACE guest blogger, Kevin Grubb, mentioned that the new NACE position statement on first destination surveys will now use the term “knowledge rate” instead of response rate as we often collect information from faculty, employers, and even LinkedIn research to gather information about our students career outcomes.

What do you think? Add your thoughts in the comments section!