Student response rates to college course evaluations are a vital measure of course quality and student satisfaction. It’s important for instructors to encourage students to complete their evaluations to ensure courses are held to the highest standards.
For response rates to be maximally useful and provide meaningful data, it’s necessary to consider a variety of factors when assessing response rates and to think critically about the best ways to improve them.
When creating a course evaluation plan, institutions should consider the immediacy of the evaluation, incentives or rewards, the communication approach, and the format of the actual survey. Each of these factors has a significant impact on student response rates and can heavily influence the accuracy and usefulness of the evaluation.
SmartEvals’ Best Tips to Boost Response Rates:
Getting faculty buy-in: If instructors believe they can get better feedback, higher response rates, and improve their courses, they will gladly do their part in getting students to complete their surveys.
1. Train the Instructors
Get faculty and deans comfortable with an initial setup training. After that, hold follow-up sessions periodically to keep them familiar with the system. Provide training videos and documentations they can access when needed. The important part is that instructor concerns are addressed before going into survey season, which will give them the confidence they need.
2. Always Inform the Instructors
Email instructors reminders to ask students to complete surveys and send instructors their response rates at different points during the evaluation period. Above all, make sure they stay informed and motivated.
3. Email Templates
Provide instructors with email reminders templates that they can use and modify. Students are more likely to read an email from their instructor as opposed to their school, which makes this tip useful. It’s the best way to ensure that all emails getting sent out remain consistent while allowing instructors to add their personal touch.
4. Thank You Templates
Provide instructors a template for “thank you” response emails. These appear after a student completes their surveys, and it would be beneficial to set up in your LMS. You can even send a “thank you” email in advance to engage students before the evaluation period is over. This gesture is one of those details that goes a long way in retaining respondents for future semesters.
5. Take Notes
Provide instructors the ability to take down notes about their surveys so that they can easily remember points about each semester. For example, if they choose to incorporate a new textbook for on their classes and want to determine its effectiveness.
6. Question Applicability
Give instructors the option to determine a question’s applicability to their course. Faculty members may be unhappy with a questions for one of two reasons: it’s either the phrasing of the question, or the question doesn’t apply to their particular course. For example, asking a question about the effectiveness of the textbook when a particular class didn’t use a textbook wouldn’t make a lot of sense. By giving instructors an option to note a question’s applicability, instructors feel like they’re being heard, and that they are receiving relevant data, which benefits response rates for instructors school-wide.
7. Add Questions
Give instructors the ability to add certain questions to their surveys. Doing this builds trust in the online surveys among your instructors because they can be assured the data coming in is both fair and reliable.
8. Different Question Sets
Have the option to ask different sets of questions. Whether it’s by department or division, campus or class type, having this option limits the potential for survey fatigue, and it creates a more focused survey with relevant questions.
9. Follow-Up Questions
Add follow-up questions to surveys. For questions that received a poor rating or low score, it would be beneficial to uncover more information on why that score was given by adding adding a follow-up question. This can provide context as to why a student made their selections so that instructors know exactly what to adjust. When soliciting feedback, the best questions to ask are text-based, open-ended questions.
10. Data Analysis on Thoughtfulness
Include data analysis on the thoughtfulness of graders. Your survey system may have some sort of algorithm to help determine which students simply rushed to complete surveys and students that actively think about their selections. Allowing instructors to filter thoughtful respondents when viewing survey results will make a significant impact in finding the exact areas they need to improve.
11. Data Analysis on Graders
Include data analysis on easy or hard graders. Students have the tendency to grade their instructors on a curve. In some cases, you might have students who give high ratings even if they disliked a class and students who give low ratings even if they loved a class. Knowing the grading tendencies of students is important when a faculty member is up for tenure review. A steep drop in scores could be the result of a semester of hard graders.
12. Data Analysis on Time
Include analysis for the time of day course evaluations were completed. This will be helpful by proving to instructors that there is no difference between the time of day and when students complete their course evaluations.
13. Use a Software Vendor
Software vendors focus on compiling reliable and useful data while making sure that their systems avoid crashing or developing technical bugs. A vendor can take over the responsibility of collecting and organizing results from evaluations so that instructors can get back to other important tasks. An important thing to know when looking for a vendor is to make sure they can securely manage and protect FERPA data.