Online Course Evaluations: A Software Selection Guide from Explorance

Written by Explorance.

No general-purpose feedback management (survey) system can be everything to everybody. Many tools on the market claim to address the different feedback processes at once. But they can require more time and effort, be less flexible, generate less satisfying results, and ultimately have a higher total cost of ownership (TCO).

This system selection guide, prepared by Explorance experts, describes the key advantages of using a system that was specifically built to implement instructor or course evaluations.

A system with intelligence for greater efficiency

Instructor/course evaluations give students the chance to provide feedback to their instructors about their teaching methods and course content. More specifically, these evaluations are an invaluable tool for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to assess how instructors measure up to student expectations and target areas for professional development and improvement.

The process can be extensive. An HEI can be required to gather feedback for hundreds of instructors and courses from thousands of students. A fully managed process at a university offering 1,000 courses could require well over 30,000 evaluations — one for each student in each class. The only way a general-purpose tool can conduct such a process is with an unmanaged public survey format where there is no guarantee the right students will complete the questionnaires.

Furthermore, the information gathered must be merged to support reports on specific instructors, programs, departments, or any other useful criteria.

Explorance offers a software specially developed with the ability to manage any aspect of the course evaluation process: The Blue course evaluation software.

The general-purpose tools offered by other vendors perform basic survey functions but are less flexible and unable to manage the process properly. They also tend to lack an understanding of the hierarchical relationships that exist between subjects and respondents and don’t have the intelligence to generate reports to help effectively analyze the results.

To help you pick the right tool for instructor/ course evaluations, the following table sums up some helpful questions to ask potential vendors. It shows how the Blue course evaluation software stacks up to a general-purpose survey tool.

Questions to Ask Your Vendor

Questions General-Purpose Survey Tool Blue/Evaluation
Can instructors add their own questions (per course) into the evaluation process? NO YES
Can Deans see results for all classes taught by the instructors who report to them?


Results are distributed to management on a per-course basis, or centralized if a public survey is used.


Results are fully centralized so that results can be aggregated either by instructor or by course.

Is the system smart enough to present the appropriate evaluation form to the appropriate student?


The system makes a form publicly available, and the student decides which instructor/course combination to review.


The system fully understands data relationships and allocates the appropriate instructor/course evaluation form to the appropriate student.

Does the system understand the hierarchy in the organization, including direct and indirect relationships? NO


The system can allocate different rules for different people.

Does the system have an integrated workflow to help manage the process? NO YES
Can the system track who did their evaluations, and who didn’t?


Unless the surveys are implemented as multiple surveys with a decentralized management.


Management is centralized per project, which is defined by a complete set of evaluations.

Can the system guarantee that only the appropriate students review the appropriate classes? And only once?


Students may respond more than once to the same form or evaluate the wrong set of instructors/courses.


The process is fully managed and controlled.

Can you apply different deadlines to different reviews? NO YES
Can you do a historical analysis to see how an instructor has developed over time?


May be achieved through export to XLS and manual manipulation of results.

Can the system provide live interactive access to course evaluation results with the response rates dashboard? NO Yes
Does the system allow you to tap into and analyze qualitative student feedback? NO


Machine Learning embedded in Blue allows you to tap into open-ended feedback collected from student evaluations and surveys.

Can the system handle complex evaluations? NO


Blue handles even the most complex evaluations with ease, including cross-listed and team-taught courses.


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