First, a bit of history

In 2008, the NQC (now the NSSC) introduced the compulsory AQTF Learner / Employer Satisfaction Resources along with the SMART database developed by ACER. In most cases, RTOs already had very genuine and meaningful learner and employer feedback arrangements and this new requirement forced them to either discard their current arrangements or continue to apply them parallel to the new mandatory system. The outcome for most RTOs was to cease using locally developed arrangements and adopt the new satisfaction resources as their only source of feedback.

In my opinion, this was a very sad day for the VET sector. In one fell swoop, the NQC purged the system of genuine, locally developed and quality based feedback arrangements and replaced them with an over-engineered, one size fits all, and overly complicated survey system. A system that has very little meaning for RTOs, especially in terms of driving continuous improvement.

After three years of negative feedback, in December 2011, the NSSC informed RTOs that they were no longer required to use the SMART database due to the withdrawal of Commonwealth funding for the program. This was a welcome decision as the SMART database had huge deficiencies, particularly in the way it retained data from year to year and in its reporting structure which was difficult to interpret.

In my audits over this period, I have seen the majority of RTOs collecting the survey data for compliance purposes only. The completed survey forms often pile up in a draw until May each year when they are entered into SMART for the 30 June reporting requirement. It is extremely rare to see an RTO make the connection between the reporting of satisfaction trends and their continuous improvement approach.

So, where are we today?

In response to the NSSC directive in 2011, ASQA informed RTOs that they are no longer required to use the SMART database. ASQA also specified that RTOs must continue to use the Learner & Employer Questionnaires to collect data to enable their reporting of quality indicators. ASQA has issued a general direction on this click here to see and provided a simple form called the Quality Indicator Annual Summary Report which allows an RTO to report the outcomes relating to response rates, trends, feedback and improvements actions, nice! The Learner & Employer Questionnaires are also available for download from the ASQA website.

Finally we are moving to a position where we are linking the collection and analysis of data with our continuous improvement actions. I think this is critically important and would argue that it needs to be occuring continuously throughout the year (not just for the annual report) in order to feed into management team meetings and inform decision making on improvement actions.

Houston, we have a problem

The issue RTOs are still struggling with is where to store all of this data and how to extract information that provides useful indicators of quality. The SMART database is no longer available. We have RTOs contact us regularly looking for a solution to this problem. ACER provides an online service for a fee click here to see but apart from that there is no available stand-alone system which will allow you to enter, collate and analyse your survey data using the Learner & Employer Questionnaires.

We have a solution!

To provide a solution to this problem, Newbery Consulting has developed a nice simple database that will allow you to progressively enter your survey results and produce reports over any date range. It will produce a summary report and a detailed report for both the learner and employer satisfaction trends. It uses the traffic light system to guide management decisions about how to respond when your satisfaction levels are low. We call this new product Satisfaction Data and best of all, it’s free. At Newbery Consulting we are serious about supporting the VET sector with practical, common sense products that support quality and strengthen your compliance. Satisfaction Data will complement the continuous improvement arrangements of those using our RTO System.

System Requirements

Satisfaction Data is a split Microsoft Access database file. Essentially to operate Satisfaction Data you will need a PC (not a Mac) running Microsoft Office Professional 2007 or 2010. Microsoft Office Professional is the version that has Microsoft Access which is a database program. You can purchase Microsoft Access separately for about $200.00. There is more information on system requirements on the request page. Satisfaction Data is not a supported software and is not eligible for technical support from Newbery Consulting or updates.

If you meet these requirements and need to improve your use of survey data to identify opportunities for improvement, please proceed to the request page:

Request Satisfaction Data

Good training!

Joe Newbery

Published: 28th September 2012

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