Unlocking Student Voices: How to Supercharge Course Evaluation Response Rates


Course evaluations are a valuable tool for instructors and institutions to gather feedback and make continuous improvements. However, low response rates can render that valuable feedback useless. Instructors often wonder how they can encourage students to actively participate and provide honest answers to their surveys. So let’s explore three effective strategies: ensuring confidentiality, offering incentives, and expressing gratitude to students.

Confidentiality is Key

One major concern for students when completing course evaluations is the fear of repercussions due to lack of anonymity. To remedy this, instructors should emphasize the confidential nature of the evaluation process. When students are assured that their responses will remain anonymous, they’re more likely to provide sincere feedback.

For example, while SmartEvals allows instructors to view any written responses to their evaluations, they cannot see who the response is submitted by. This ensures students’ anonymity and encourages honest feedback.

Offer Incentives

It’s no secret to anyone working in higher education that incentives are an extremely powerful motivator to students. Don’t forget to use incentives as encouragement for completing course evaluations too! While many students may feel a sense of duty to provide feedback, the promise of a reward is often a sure-fire way to increase participation rates.

For instructors in need of incentive ideas, we suggest motivators along the lines of: prize drawings, immediate rewards, or even tiny amounts of extra credit. As they sound, these are all small, but effective ways to encourage students to complete their evaluations.

Express Gratitude

It’s important for instructors to remember to show appreciation for the effort students put into completing evaluations as it can go a long way. Many students feel overwhelmed between courses, clubs, athletics, work, maintaining social lives, and any number of other personal issues. Chances are that all their assignments aren’t exactly receiving 100% every time either. A few kind words from their professors can be more impactful than instructors might initially believe.

SmartEvals offers instructors the option to include ‘thank-you’ messages which will display following the completion of an evaluation. Instructors are able to write a custom message students will read, adding a nice touch and feeling of genuine gratitude from their instructors. This method in particular is wonderful as it’s a small effort on instructors’ end, but can be very meaningful to many students and encourage them to continue filling out surveys for the rest of their institution as well.

Putting It All Together

Increasing response rates is not just about collecting data; it’s about fostering an environment of trust and engagement. By ensuring confidentiality, offering incentives, and expressing gratitude, instructors can motivate students to actively participate in the evaluation process.

Confidentiality helps students feel safe in providing honest feedback. Incentives provide an extra push for those who might be on the fence about participating. Expressing gratitude shows students that their voices matter and that their input leads to positive changes in the learning experience.

Remember, the goal is not just to get more responses but to collect valuable, honest feedback that can drive improvements in instructors’ performances. By implementing these strategies, instructors can achieve higher response rates and, ultimately, enhance the quality of education for both current and future students.

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