While many higher education institutions (HEIs) have converted to an on-line course evaluation solution, getting students to participate can sometimes present real challenges. Students are busy with their studies as well as taking on professional responsibilities leaving little time for things that are often perceived as extra work. As an important measure of the quality of evaluations, low response rates can provide inadequate data that can lead to faulty insights for teaching and learning improvements. With emails being one of the most impactful methods for HEIs to communicate with faculty and students during course evaluations, here are some strategies that you can use to conduct successful campaigns.
Craft an Effective Subject Line: Yes, it all starts with the subject line. As your students’ first contact with your course evaluation campaign, the subject line is essential because it gives you one opportunity to grab their attention. To craft an effective subject line you should first consider who your audience is. Modern students tend to want clear-cut quick access to information, so keep your subject line short and to the point. Most importantly, it should also speak to their main priority as students – improving their learning experience and outcome.
Ensure Your ‘Sender’ is Familiar and Influential: Let’s face it – most students probably can’t name the VP Teaching and Learning at your institution. So chances are they won’t open an email from that individual. Now, everyone knows who your provost or president is, so why not use them as the sender when launching your course evaluation campaign. Make sure that your IT department is involved so the sender’s inbox is not flooded with replies.
Make Every Word Count: The focus of the body of your course evaluation email is to get students to move forward. They’ve moved past the subject line, now it’s time to entice them to take the action – complete the course evaluation form. No student wants to assume or analyze the purpose of an email so it’s up to you to make sure that the information is immediately visible and clear.
- Start by personalizing your email – use their first name to make it less formal.
- Communicate the point of your email from the very beginning with an active voice.
- Keep your text short and informal and place important text or call-to-actions at the beginning.
- Create a sense of genuine urgency without being aggressive – e.g. complete your evaluation today.
Consider Your Timing: Before you click the send button, you might want to think about the timing of your course evaluation email and how it will affect your response rate. Pay special attention to key dates such as breaks and exam periods. Students tend to be more distracted and excited the week before a big break, so this is not the optimal time to launch a campaign. Exam periods can be busy so students are focused and stressed out. They may be less inclined to provide constructive qualitative feedback on evaluation forms.
Furthermore, the days of the week you send out your course evaluation invitation and follow-up notifications are important. Send your initial email at the beginning of the week when students are more likely to read through emails and take actions. When you send your reminders use a consistent day and time so that students grow accustom to seeing the email. Space reminders out over the period of a day or two. You should also time announcements (flyers, broadcasts) about course evaluations right before sending your invitations, follow-ups, and reminders.
What are some other tips that you use to boost response rates? Comment and let us know.
Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, eXplorance