Leena Chandran-Wadia and Neela DabirNovember 4, 2019

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The Tata Institute of Social Sciences School of Vocational Education (TISS-SVE) is changing the narrative around vocational education in India. Though vocational education has not taken off in India, TISS-SVE has seen great demand for their course offerings, with more than 8000 students currently enrolled in their B.Voc (Bachelor of Vocational Education) courses and 70% of graduates employed. They offer students a diverse array of opportunities to pursue, with 33 B.Voc programs in 19 different sectors.

All of this is made possible by TISS-SVE’s self-sustaining, low-cost vocational education model that runs on a customized ERP system. It connects all the different stakeholders: 1) the knowledge and classroom partners (vertical anchors and hubs respectively), 2) the Skill Knowledge Providers (SKPs, companies where students are stationed while they learn on the job), 3) trainers and 4) many other functionaries who help run their many vocational education programs. TISS-SVE oversees the overall administration and impact measurement of the programs, to ensure that all 240+ education hubs are offering quality education.

Having initiated their courses in 2014 with just 443 students and seen their intake grow to 6145 students in 2019, TISS-SVE wants to dig deeper and find out their impact on stakeholders. The best way to do that? Ask stakeholders what they think!

For the first time in May-July 2019 TISS-SVE went beyond their traditional monthly and yearly feedback measures and conducted a 360-degree feedback project. They did telephone interviews of some stakeholders, and online surveys for other stakeholders. This multi-stakeholder 360-degree feedback gathering exercise was meant to understand the perceptions of the various groups of stakeholders regarding the partnership model, its ability to deliver value and its acceptance among students and employers.

TISS-SVE came to the LabStorm to review the results of the 360-degree feedback project and discuss the best ways to engage stakeholders in the future.

LabStorm attendees had some great ideas for how to get stakeholders involved in feedback gathering, and how to keep their attention.

  1. Use initial feedback to inform future questions. When TISS-SVE planned their 360-degree feedback gathering, they only had a broad goal to understand the perceptions of stakeholders. Therefore, the questions were broad, and the responses revealed overall patterns about stakeholder’s perceptions and needs. LabStorm attendees highlighted that there is a wealth of information from the data that TISS-SVE has collected so far, and they can use that information to write more specific, pointed questions for particular stakeholder groups in future surveys. LabStorm attendees also emphasized that in future surveys, TISS-SVE should focus on asking questions that are actionable for TISS-SVE and their partners. For example, when they survey their hub partners, they should ask if they would like access to new materials, and give them new materials depending on the response. This strategy is also important because responding to feedback from surveys will improve TISS-SVE’s relationship with their partners.
  2. Increase response rates. LabStorm attendees had a few good suggestions for TISS-SVE to improve their survey response rates. First, they should plan the timing of the survey carefully. Previously, TISS-SVE found that student response rates were low when students were busy studying for exams, so TISS-SVE should conduct the survey at less-busy parts of the school year to get students’ full attention. Another good way to keep students’ attention is to make the surveys short. After all, even outside of an exam period, students don’t want to spend their free time filling out surveys. If it is quick and easy, they are much more likely to participate. Finally, TISS-SVE should consider offering incentives for the students to complete the survey. One option is to offer scholastic perks, such as having your exams graded first if you have filled out the survey, or getting access to an additional study tool. Another good option that is always popular with students, is food or a treat.
  3. Use popular tech! It is best to ask people for feedback on a platform that they are already comfortable using. LabStorm attendees suggested that TISS-SVE use WhatsApp for Business to send surveys to their stakeholders, because most of them will probably already have the app downloaded on their phone and are familiar with its features. For stakeholders who are in a particular rush, or are limited in their ability to type, TISS-SVE should also offer a voice memo option. Along with voice memos, TISS-SVE should find a supporting translation service, so that stakeholders can submit their thoughts in the local language they are most comfortable using. These tech options will ensure that all stakeholders get surveys in a format that is simple for them.

This LabStorm showed us the challenges – and opportunities – of doing a perceptive survey at scale.

Do you have any ideas for how to improve the 360-degree feedback process? Leave a comment, or send your thoughts to us and our friends at TISS-SVE, [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]

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