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Effective Course Evaluation Planning: How to Improve Your Process of Collecting Student Feedback

By Chanel Sutherland

April showers bring May flowers, and for higher education institutions (HEIs) it also means the start of course evaluation season. As with all of education, effective course evaluations begin with proper planning. It’s in every HEI’s best interest to be ahead of the curve when it comes to their evaluation strategy in order for the data to be beneficial to campus wide improvement (i.e. student success, faculty development, and accreditation). Unfortunately, so many run into challenges – chief among them inaccurate SIS data, low participation rates, and inaccessible data points.

Done properly, a plan will vastly simplify the task of getting your course evaluation projects launched. It can help define specific steps and provide a roadmap to help administrators navigate and capitalize on student feedback. More importantly – a course evaluation plan isn't as hard to put together as you might think. In this article, we'll walk you through some important steps to prepare a course evaluation plan that will help you successfully gather actionable student feedback.

1-Start with Clean SIS Data: Course evaluation efforts are wasted if the data in your Student information System (SIS) is inaccurate or incomplete. If critical information such as course details, enrollment data, student information, teacher to course information, etc. is missing it will be impossible to make informed decisions. Manual preparation – which often goes hand-in-hand with data error – can also be a headache as it can take up to seven weeks to get data ready. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time analyzing results than checking data and resolving inconsistencies?

An automated solution like the Data Integrity Gateway™ (DIG) can help improve data quality while significantly saving you time and resources. By seamlessly integrating with your SIS, DIG will automate your processes, eliminate errors, and improve your data integrity. The best part – it cuts your course evaluation data preparation time down from seven weeks of manual labor to two weeks of automated workflows.

Learn How DIG™ Can Cut Your Course Evaluation Data Preparation Down to 2 Weeks

2-Find Your Champions: Who are your course evaluation champions? Think about individuals at the institution who are consistently engaged with your student community and hold respect among them. Get your champions to breathe fresh life into your course evaluation efforts by advertising them on the channels where they’ve had the greatest impact.

In this video, the University of Toronto recruited students and instructors to talk about the importance of course evaluations, then shared it to their social media channels. Some HEIs have recorded instructors reading ‘mean tweets’ (from past evaluations) to add an element of fun and lightheartedness to the otherwise tense course evaluation process. You can also host events where current students or alumni talk about how evaluation results have helped them choose courses in the past. The point of your champions is to increase awareness of the impact course evaluations have on the student experience and motivate them to participate.

3-Plan Your Notifications: Let’s face it – no one wants to read another series of long boring emails from school administrators. Your students get enough of those during the semester. That’s why it’s important to put some thought into your course evaluation notifications and plan them in advance. Be sure to keep your notifications short and to the point. Inject a bit of personality into your messaging and place the call-to-action at the top. Make your tone urgent but not pushy – your students are already stressed with exams and end of term papers. Most importantly - remember that timing is everything. To learn more about creating effective course evaluation campaigns, read our previous blog post.

4- Leverage 100% of Student Feedback Data: To get a complete picture of student feedback, you need to use every data point in your analysis, including open-ended comments. Unfortunately, qualitative feedback often poses a great challenge for HEIs; to manually perform text analytics is both time consuming and inefficient. Furthermore, most do not have the text mining tool required to decipher open-ended comments and convert them into meaningful themes and trends. That is until now.

Created in partnership with Provalis Research, Blue Text Analytics (BTA) is a world-class content analysis tool that makes sense of qualitative data. BTA goes beyond simple keyword and sentiment analysis and allows HEIs to leverage existing dictionaries or use its purpose-built ‘Teaching and Learning Dictionary’. The dictionary understands idioms, local expressions, typos, and synonyms and reflects how your students communicate. With BTA you can discover the issues that concern your students the most and use them to improve teaching and learning.

How do you plan for course evaluations at your institution? In your opinion, is there room for improvement? Comment and let us know.

Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, eXplorance

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