What Can You Do to Increase Course Evaluation Response Rates?

Written by Christian Ehninger, Explorance.

Students completing an online assessment

Read Length: Less than 6 minutes

Synopsis: In a recent Explorance webinar, Dr. Suheyl Unver of Douglas College outlined how evaluation response rates were boosted by 10% at that Higher Education institution. This blog post breaks down the context, efforts made, and potential for future improvement.

Most Higher Education Institutions recognize the importance of the student voice, yet many still struggle to capture it. End of course evaluations are an important way to ensure that universities are providing the best academic experience for their students – but response rates continue to be a struggle. Students tend to overlook course evaluation forms, whether it be because they do not have the time or because they are simply uninterested.

Creating awareness and encouraging students to take part in the feedback process should be a key goal for any Higher Education Institution – and can lead to visible gains in student engagement rates.

Understanding the Student Point of View

In a recent webinar, entitled ‘What Can You Do to Increase Course Evaluation Response Rates…’, Dr. Suheyl Unver, Manager of Education & Services Research at Douglas College in British Columbia noted the importance of encouraging students to give feedback, and how to better realize this. 

Douglas College was able to increase its response rates on course evaluations by 10% in under a year. Throughout this webinar, Dr. Unver identified the following themes that were prevalent in non-engagement with course evaluations:

  • Time-related reasons
  • Lack of awareness
  • Not being approached to give feedback
  • Structural & conceptual barriers
  • Students being unwilling to give feedback in general

Based on these findings, Douglas College and other universities could build a better approach in connecting with the student perspective and actively seek solutions to the above – and engage more effectively with their students.

Measures to Improve Engagement

Gathering student feedback and engaging with the student body is crucial in managing the student experience. Students are often discouraged in giving their feedback due to experiencing lack of awareness and perceived irrelevancy regarding the feedback process. To combat these sentiments, Dr. Unver implemented the following methods at Douglas College:

  • Making active use of the school’s social media channels
  • Collaborating with the Student Union
  • A consistent student reminder system

In today’s digital age, any institution has the capability to take full advantage of social media. Utilizing an institution’s social media accounts to engage with their students is an adequate and cost-effective way to engage with a mass audience. Social media can allow students to stay up to date with institution news from the palm of their hand, at any time and from anywhere. As social media platforms are continually integrated into the world of analytics, many platforms boast a suite of tools that can collect key information with the ease of pushing a button. Universities can take advantage of their platforms to create awareness and remind their students about the importance of their feedback.

Collaborating with Student Unions also provides a great channel of communication between the institution and their students. As students can tend to ignore optional communication directly from the institution, universities can look to Student Unions as a partner to help deliver their message. Students could be more willing to engage and communicate with their peers in the Student Union. Keeping the student body informed is in the Student Union’s best interests.

When collecting feedback from students, it is easy for a university email containing a survey to be overlooked. Using Explorance’s Blue Experience Management (XM) platform, Douglas College was able to put in place a series of reminders to prompt students to complete their course evaluations from the first day it was sent out, up until the last day it was due. This email reminder system can help keep students engaged and encourage them to provide feedback without bombarding them.

It is important to note that encouraging students to give their feedback on courses or their overall experience will increasingly leave them feeling that their voices are being heard. When students recognize their voice is being heard, they will begin to expect the institution to act upon the feedback they provided.

A Continuous Process – Multimedia Support and Sharing Results

Actively seeking new ways to increase student engagement with these questions is important to both students and the institution. The previously mentioned methods are not the definitive ceiling to this never-ending process.

The key factor to improvement is not only to receive feedback, but it is to actively invite and enthusiastically facilitate feedback.

This could involve using visual resources such as video guides to direct both new and current students towards course feedback, outlining how to complete it and setting expectations regarding the experience. These resources could be displayed through the institution’s social media channels or on student portals to further increase awareness regarding course feedback.

Another example of this encouragement could be sharing insightful data gathered from student feedback with both students and faculty in attractive visual package – such as engaging infographics.  

By sharing insightful data in an easy-to-consume manner, students can directly see how their feedback is being interpreted and how it could be responded to. Universities should focus on making the student voice feel important and wanted, enticing them to participate in any form of engagement.

Ultimately, students will benefit from an improved academic environment that responds substantively to their feedback.  The every-day university experience itself will become more satisfactory if students feel feedback is being properly acted-upon.

Above all, students need to be heard. Whether it is through their own choice to contribute, or a result of consistent encouragement from the university, the student voice ultimately holds considerable power when it comes to change.

When students begin to see changes made, they will feel their expressed opinions are more valid, and thus they’ll be encouraged to engage in future feedback processes.

About Dr. Suheyl Unver

Suheyl Unver, PhD, is the manager of Education and Services Research, at Douglas College located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Unver is a certified Blue Administrator. View his recent webinar, entitled “What Can You Do to Increase Course Evaluation Response Rates? Probably a Lot!” here.


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