8 Steps to Boosting Course Evaluation Response Rates: Strategies from Higher Education Leaders

Written by Explorance.

In Explorance’s A Guide to Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates, we share insights from Higher Education leaders who have successfully enhanced student engagement in evaluations. Our contributors offer practical guidance on:

  • Key steps, ranging from initial question planning to communication and engagement, to support student and staff engagement.
  • How streamlined questionnaires and changes to evaluation methodology promote interaction.
  • The significance of allocating time for in-class feedback, along with examples of innovative incentives for completion.
  • The impact of integrating with the institution’s LMS/VLE on response rates.
  • Approaches to continuous communication, including closing the feedback loop.

In this blog, we summarize the eight crucial steps outlined in the guide that have resulted in heightened response rates on module evaluations, course evaluations, and other student insight surveys.

Contributors to Response Rates Guide

Before diving into the 8 steps, we wanted to acknowledge those who made this guide possible. Contributors represent institutions from around the globe, offering a diverse and insightful perspective on optimizing response rates within Explorance Blue-powered universities. Their collective contributions provide a rich tapestry of best practices, ensuring a broad view of course evaluation optimization strategies across various educational settings.

Their expertise and insights have immensely enriched our understanding of effective strategies. We extend our gratitude to the following contributors:

  • Dr. Danielle Grenade and Emma Watson from Northumbria University, representing Governance and Enhancement as well as Quality and Teaching Excellence coordination.
  • Emma Dawes, Survey Insights Analyst, from The University of Newcastle, Australia.
  • Dr. Mark Allinson, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at the University of Bristol.
  • Dr. Gail DePuy and Robert Goldstein from the University of Louisville, serving as Senior Vice Provost and Vice Provost, Assessment and University Decision Support/Analytics, respectively.
  • Dr. Amie Norden, Senior Instructional Designer, Carlson School of Management, the University of Minnesota.
  • Daniel Glover, University Survey & Assessment Services, the University of Minnesota
  • Carolyn Moir, Student Surveys Manager, representing the University of Worcester.
  • Paul Keitley, Manager, Student Survey Systems, from UNSW Sydney.
  • Dr. Andy Yeo, Deputy Manager at Temasek Polytechnic.

8 Steps to Boosting Course Evaluation Response Rates

1. Focus on Your Question Set

Once universities have established response rate targets and outlined their survey methodology, the next step is to streamline surveys by either minimizing or restructuring question sets as necessary.

While some institutions already benefit from concise, short questions that aid in promoting surveys to students, others grapple with longer surveys containing up to 200 questions, demanding approximately 30 minutes for completion.

Maintaining a robust feedback culture involves avoiding over-surveying students. To enhance response rates, institutions are adopting strategies such as reducing the overall number of surveys or shortening the length of individual surveys.

2. Create Time for In-Class Feedback

Academic leaders are encouraged to allocate dedicated time during their lectures or seminars for students to complete evaluations. This not only ensures that feedback is collected efficiently but also serves as an ideal opportunity to communicate to students how their input will be utilized.

Incorporating in-class feedback sessions has been proven to have a positive influence on response rates, establishing a robust foundation for comprehending students’ experiences and fostering a culture of actively listening and responding to the student voice.

It’s worth noting that in certain institutions, feedback reports may only be provided to staff after students have received their grades, ensuring that the feedback process does not impact academic performance.

3. Incentivize to Boost Engagement

Institutions need to make a conscious decision on whether to implement incentives for student survey completion, as this has proven to be effective for some but not all. Importantly, it’s not about having large budgets; universities can explore inventive ways to leverage their everyday facilities and activities to provide students with distinctive opportunities, thus fostering engagement in a unique manner.

Engaging teaching staff in proposing prizes and involving students in selecting their preferred incentives are key steps. Examples of incentives utilized include tours, unique experiences, annual free parking passes, gym memberships, and campus food and retail vouchers. By thinking creatively and involving the campus community, institutions can enhance participation without relying solely on extravagant budgets.

4. Integrate Surveys with LMS/VLE

The integration of surveys into an institution’s Learning Management System (LMS)/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) not only boosts visibility but can also yield an immediate and sustained improvement in evaluation response rates.

Universities leveraging Explorance Blue course evaluations have witnessed significant enhancements in student engagement by implementing changes such as pop-up reminders in the Blackboard Ultra LMS. These adjustments have made a substantial difference in the overall participation of students in the survey process.

Furthermore, institutions that have successfully developed and integrated their LMS/VLE report that promoting student surveys becomes much more straightforward. This integration not only streamlines the process but also contributes to more robust reporting outcomes as an additional benefit. Download “A Guide to Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates.”

5. Consistent and Strategic Communication

Explorance Blue offers another valuable advantage by enabling institutions to effectively connect with students through personalized email notifications and strategically scheduled reminders integrated into the system. This sustained engagement plays a crucial role in bolstering response rates.

A prevailing strategy involves keeping students consistently informed through a year-round promotional campaign. This approach aims to keep students “in the loop,” celebrating successes and transparently showcasing the changes implemented based on their feedback.

The combined efforts of direct engagement, continuous proactive and reactive communication, and the dissemination of survey results beyond the immediate survey cycle are believed to exert a positive influence on student responses. This multifaceted approach fosters a sense of involvement and recognition, contributing to sustained and meaningful participation in the feedback process.

6. Partner with Academic Staff

Academic staff, being the primary touchpoints for students, play a pivotal role in influencing response rates. Dedicating just 10 minutes in a lecture or sending a direct email can significantly enhance student engagement.

Encouraging instructors to actively promote evaluations is essential, but their impact can extend beyond simple promotion. Involvement in strategic planning for module or course evaluations and contributing to reports presented to university committees showcases the recognition and value accorded to the perspectives of teaching staff.

Empowering instructors to actively monitor live response rates through the Explorance Blue dashboard and providing them with the authority to follow up as needed, especially in scenarios with target response rates or when using feedback to review their provision, further emphasizes their crucial role in the feedback process. This approach not only boosts engagement but also underscores the significance of teaching staff’s contributions to the overall learning experience.

7. Closing the Loop Impacts Response Rates

A significant motivator for students to complete a survey is the assurance that their voice is not only heard but also acted upon. Staff must be ready to actively listen to feedback and, crucially, translate it into meaningful actions.

In essence, students want to believe that the time they invest in completing evaluations translates into tangible differences and that program leaders genuinely value their input. Faculty members who take the initiative to explain how they incorporate feedback data into instructional enhancements are generally observed to achieve the highest response rates.

Moreover, sharing reports with broader student representatives can be a strategic approach. Collaborating with student representatives in partnership may help drive increased responses within the student body, fostering a sense of collective impact and participation in the improvement process.

8. No Single Approach is Enough

Typically, a singular approach isn’t sufficient to unilaterally boost response rates; instead, it’s the synergy of various factors that brings about change and fosters a cultural shift, which may be the primary goal for some institutions.

From refining survey methodology and incorporating incentives to leveraging LMS integrations, the cumulative impact of these measures, even in small changes, can result in substantial gains.

Identifying ‘champions’—administrators, instructors, and students—who can actively drive the process on the ground plays a crucial role in engaging students in the feedback process. It’s the collaborative effort and integration of multiple strategies that often lead to a transformative cultural shift within an institution.


Download “A Guide to Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates”


Course evaluationsExplorance BlueHigher educationStudent engagementStudent experience

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