Monday, April 28, 2014

Kaizen in Evaluation of course delivery in higher education: A dilemma worth debating

The Sino Japanese word Kaizen refers to ‘good change’ or ‘positive change’ in any process or system. It’s used in the world of business to denote “continuous improvement” and also development. However, there are several pundits who believe that Kaizen is more often than not, used to denote all kinds of efforts to improve quality thereby making ‘kaizen’ a broad umbrella of change indicators.
Evaluation of course delivery in the higher education landscape is largely a matter of debate and subjective opinion. Though we would like to wish off the disagreements and the deliberations in this aspect, a conscious effort on the part of academicians, administrators and policy makers is called for, with respect to the variables that are many a times taken for granted.
Course delivery is often under-evaluated and in some cases, considered as a mere documentation exercise. The customer centricity part is largely missing. In several instances, the course delivery evaluation will only include ‘faculty evaluation’ and in some cases the evaluation of the course syllabus. The finer aspects of the course delivery like the methodology and pedagogy adapted, the reference material suggested for the course, the student participation levels in the classroom, the customization levels and the student evaluation process remain undermined. This calls for a greater degree of resource allocation by educational institutions towards course evaluation and also a greater degree of commitment by the academicians towards continuous improvement. One-time interventions and ad-hoc measures in this regard can only solve the purposes of being stop-gap arrangements.  Proper evaluation of course delivery will go a long way in making the course more relevant and presentable. A holistic approach towards course delivery can also hold the institution in good stead in times of fierce competition. However this is easier said than done. There are a number of roadblocks that need to be cleared for this kind of an initiative to take off.
To begin with, we need to have an informal and non-periodic assessment of the course delivery by the end customer, in addition to the periodic and formal assessment process. The definition of end customer is subjective and includes a wide range of stakeholders. For instance, it may include sponsoring companies besides students, in case of corporate education.  Though the buy-in for this kind of an exercise may be difficult, it is sure to have a long term positive impact and also give way to repeat purchase. The evaluation of the course delivery would broadly involve 5 areas:

While there is ample scope for customization and formulation of a holistic evaluation system, the rigour of evaluation process should not be compromised, in any case, at any stage. In this context, it becomes necessary that the evaluation system remains majorly objective, despite the fact that there will be some subjective element in any evaluation system. Further, periodic review of the evaluation system, should be carried out by third party consultants and end customers in  cognizance with the academic team involved in the delivery of the course.
It’s also important to note that the evaluation process review report feedback needs to be given due importance. The review inputs should be discussed and debated by the academic team and based on mutual consent and a pre-formulated weighted average method, changes can be brought about in the review system, making it a meaningful intervention. Steve Woznaik once said, “Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked.” The right people need to drive this kind of an intervention and they need to be selected with due care and diligence. This initiative will need people who can give new insights into process improvement and also academicians trained and certified in this domain.  These are just some of the measures that can be taken in order to adapt a holistic evaluation system that can lead to significant academic reforms. Finally, as the experts point out, your quality of output will only be as good as the efforts that go into idea of ‘quality’ at your business concern.