Issues with data confidentiality, lack of flexibility and diversity, and moves towards centralization and more effective reporting. These are just some of the challenges facing Higher Education providers that we support in Denmark. Here we take a look at four key trends emerging from our growing work developing student feedback and teaching/module evaluation systems across three institutions.
- Replacing Underperforming Systems
University College Absalon, a Higher Education institution with 9,500 students across seven professional centres and seven campuses in the region of Zealand, has used very different evaluation programs over the years, some qualitative and some quantitative. In 2017-18 it opted to implement a new Danish system which replaced a decentralized practice but did not work very well from a technical perspective.
“The issue with this system was that students were waiting for responses whilst completing questionnaires, and teachers were waiting for reports, so it was unsustainable in the end,” said Head of Quality Christian Moldt. “The institutional accreditation process identified that we needed a new system and a more effective approach to teaching evaluations. It made sense to go with one centralized system and one strategy everyone agrees on. We wanted a system that could create evaluations automatically, offer more diversity and flexibility in terms its ability to ask different questions, and be more user-friendly.”
Explorance was awarded a contract to supply teaching evaluations in 2021-22 following a competitive tender which saw the institution seek a software solution for a new evaluation system to replace its existing set-up. “Blue works much better than the old system and the functionality is greatly improved,” Christian added.
Aarhus University (AU), a top 100 university with 200+ Master’s and Bachelor’s programs and around 38,000 students, first appointed Blue to support its School of Business and Social Sciences (BSS) in 2015. It later expanded its use of Blue across its Arts, Health, Natural Sciences and Technical Sciences faculties in 2021.
Mette Tikær Brock, Data Manager in AU Student Administration and Services who originally worked in the evaluation team in Aarhus BSS, explained: “The system we used prior to Blue was not as advanced. One of the main issues was teachers did not like evaluations that students wrote in open-ended questions, and these were also shared in a public way, so there was a lot of conflict and a need for confidentiality.”
- The Power of Automation
Through deep integration with IT systems, Blue enables full automation of course evaluations institution-wide which is important to any university as it ultimately saves time during data gathering and analysis. Copenhagen Business School, one of the few schools in the world to hold ‘triple crown’ accreditation (AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS), chose Blue for its best-in-class integration capabilities, functionalities, and rich feature set. This has translated to an adaptive, fully automated course evaluation process.
Automations have had a huge impact on administrative staff at Aarhus University too. The move to a fully integrated and comprehensive module evaluation system coincided with the implementation of a new learning management system (LMS), Brightspace, which facilitated the potential to introduce Blue across the University. Having Blue within the LMS gives the University more flexibility in terms of different set-ups for different forms of teaching, and greater intelligence on types of courses.
“The higher level of automation, with so many courses, so many students, and so many others involved, has been a major benefit from implementing Blue,” Mette revealed. “We can schedule all evaluations to run smoothly. We previously had questions by school, by university, and from programme educators. Sometimes they would forget to put questions in, but that is now automated with Blue and they do not have to go into the system. We now have 2,200 end-of-module evaluations across the University. It has gone very well. I would absolutely recommend Explorance to anyone for the higher level of automation and easier way to support student surveys and evaluation.”
University College Absalon also now benefits from automation of its 1,300 end-of-semester surveys. “Evaluations are a central part of all quality assurance systems, and Blue was tried and tested, so there was confidence within our team,” Christian said. “We are very pleased with the results to date. We did some evaluations in summer 2022, and are aiming for full implementation by summer 2023 with all full-time programmes being in the system.”
- Consistent Questions, Advanced reporting
For University College Absalon, the small number of fixed institutional and departmental questions supported in its twice-yearly evaluations has been particularly advantageous. Blue’s streamlined question bank, focused questions enabling program comparisons, and ability to offer different set-ups for different forms of teaching, has been a valuable addition to student voice activity at Absalon and elsewhere in Denmark.
“Common questions around core programs ensure useful data – we can also compare programs as we are using the same set of questions,” Christian told us. “Our expectation is teachers will then spend their time having a supporting qualitative discussion with students around this in class. This approach has been very well received across the institution.”
Aarhus University’s Mette concurred: “With the old system question bank we ended up with a big list of around 800 questions as teachers kept adding new ones when they could not find the questions they were looking for. Blue has reduced and formalized that, and it is now easier for teachers to put in questions that have already been validated by the University.”
Changes at program level are enabled by each program leader getting an aggregated report much faster than in their previous system, Mette said. “Program leaders have reports as soon as the semesters are over, and before too if they want them. These are used at teacher level, program level, and leadership level. From our departmental perspective implementation ran smoothly and on time. By comparison we have also changed a lot of other systems recently, and colleagues’ experience has not been the same,” she explained.
Another Danish institution, Copenhagen Business School, chose Blue so that every stakeholder within the institution gathers the feedback they need to support decisions. This has enabled it to update its existing course evaluation processes over the past five years and drive excellence in teaching, learning and research.
- Stronger Staff and Student Ownership
As well as more effective reporting, Aarhus University and University College Absalon report a cultural impact across their institutions – not least around staff and student engagement.
Christian revealed that by “reducing the amount of teaching evaluations, and making them more meaningful for students”, there is potential for better insight to inform the structure of each program. “We have done a lot of testing with the questions, and students have also observed that the system is better than the old one, with fewer questions to answer and these being better formatted,” he said. “The wider process encourages students to take ownership of their own total learning experience. How they become better students by evaluating how things have gone, and in evaluation by discussion.”
“Blue gives teachers the responsibility to add their own questions and change evaluations, and that ultimately provides a lot of data,” Mette added.
Separately, staff in University College Absalon’s Quality Department have “realized there are more opportunities with Blue than we were originally expecting” following implementation. Christian commented: “We have gone much deeper into the system and done more with data structure that we had initially planned, but as a result we have become more ambitious that way. We are also very clear that if it is working we will get a lot of information to compare programs, first semester experience, progression, what we learn and how we act upon it, and where we need to improve. Culturally, Blue also integrates with the way we do our education: we are not evaluating teachers, only teaching.”
Blue•Course evaluations•Educational experience•Higher education•Learning evaluations•