How One University Achieved a 95%+ Response Rate on Evaluations in 6 Months

Written by Christian Ehninger, Explorance.

students providing course evaluations

Reading time: Less than 6 minutes

Synopsis: In a recent Explorance webinar, Magnus Bengtsson and Raifanah Binte Mohamed Ramli of the Singapore University of Technology and Design revealed how the university was able to increase student response rates by more than 30% in just one semester. The following blog highlights the methods and systems put into place to achieve this.

Course evaluations continue to play an integral role in improving any Higher Education Institution. It is important to encourage students to give their feedback as its value benefits both the institution and the overall Student Experience. However, many colleges and universities find it difficult to get their students to engage with course feedback.

Before 2019, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) was recording a student response rate of approximately 50%. Unsatisfied with these results, Magnus Bengtsson and Raifanah Binte Mohamed Ramli of the Educational Technology team at SUTD wanted to stimulate change. With impetus from the Ministry of Education, the Educational Technology Department found a blended solution to their response rate issues that would eventually boost their rates by over 40% in just a couple of semesters.

Foundations of a Better, More Automated Feedback Process

Before SUTD implemented their new methods and system, student course feedback response rates were approximately 50%. The university was using Learning Management Systems such as Moodle’s survey module and Blackboard’s own integrated surveying system to directly facilitate their student feedback process. These systems resulted in a low response rate and the process largely had to be done manually, causing the following problems:

  • Excessive time consumption
  • A labor-intensive process for administrators
  • Inability to track individual student responses
  • Vulnerability to human error

To tackle these issues, SUTD made use of the Blue Experience Management (XM) platform, and collaborated with student committees and instructors to try to find a way to increase course feedback response rates.

With Blue’s best-in-class integration capabilities, SUTD was able to automate their feedback process and emailing system through their existing LMS systems, allowing the university to cut administration time, costs and make the process less prone to human error. SUTD was able to send out two additional emails per survey, along with a “push” email for students who had not yet answered – all thanks to Blue’s automated emailing capabilities.

Additionally, Blue facilitated instructors at SUTD in observing student response rates on-the-fly, removing the need to contact the Educational Technology team for updates. Instructors at SUTD responded positively to this change as the data collected was easy to access and saved them the time that would be wasted having to contact the Educational Technology team.

Alongside the usage of Blue, the Educational Technology department of SUTD reviewed and discussed survey questions with instructors, management, students, and an ad hoc survey committee. SUTD used this consultation with students and faculty to improve the quality in their survey questions and encourage instructors to take the time in their lessons to gather student feedback.

A Major New Target

While the deployment of Blue’s automation capabilities resulted in institutional benefits and considerable timesaving in the surveying process, SUTD soon found itself faced with ambitious new targets for engagement.

In 2019, the Ministry of Education had implemented a new KPI for SUTD, requiring the institution to achieve a minimum 70% response rate for course evaluations.

To achieve this, the educational technology department came up with two potential solutions:

  • Blocking students from accessing their grades until they have completed surveying
  • Incentivizing students to complete course evaluations by giving them two additional marks

Due to various issues, grade blocking was never implemented at SUTD. Upon reflection, the Educational Technology Department had discovered the following problems with grade blocking:

  • The penalty of not being able to see their own grades was considered harsh and potentially detrimental to the student experience
  • Students would have to wait a longer amount of time to find out whether they must retake a course or not
  • The implementation time would take too long

Instead, the Singapore University of Technology and Design began to incentivize students into providing their feedback by incorporating feedback completion into a course’s participation marking. SUTD made it policy for courses to award two additional participation marks depending on whether the student had completed their course evaluation.

When SUTD began to incentivize course evaluations with participation marks, the educational technology team spearheading the campaign provided guides and visual resources to faculty and students, with the aim of keeping the process clear and concise for all parties involved.

Additionally, the educational technology team also held dedicated sessions for faculty to join and learn more about the feedback process and discuss any problems they may have had. With open communication and transparency with faculty, courses that were under the 70% KPI threshold were highlighted as a cautionary measure.

Instructors were also kept directly in the loop and had a “joint ownership” with the surveys as they had the opportunity to personalize questions to better suit their course.

These changes, put in place alongside the embraced strategy of using Blue’s best-in-class integration, automation and facilitation of open survey reviews ultimately allowed SUTD to reach their KPI in just one semester.

SUTD saw a 30% increase in response rates, reaching an all-time high 80% response rate in the first semester, and then saw 90%+ response rates for every semester since.

Adapting to Achieve

SUTD recognized the value of student feedback prior to receiving new KPI targets, and proactively sought out new methods and techniques to improve their response rates. When SUTD was given a minimum 70% response rate requirement, the institution was able to adapt their existing system to new methods, in order to reach beyond their KPI target.

By using Blue to automate processes and integrate with existing LMS systems, and incentivize course evaluations with additional participation marks, SUTD was able to achieve this remarkable increase.

Watch Magnus Bengtsson, Lead, Office of Undergraduate Studies, Educational Technology and Raifanah Binte Mohamed Ramli, Senior Associate, Office of Undergraduate Studies, Educational Technology speak about boosting student response rates at a recent Explorance webinar, “How SUTD Reached a 95% Response Rate on their Course and Instructor Evaluations in 6 Months.


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