Università della Svizzera italiana
Evolution of course evaluation from paper to online, overcoming legacy issues around manual administration, and the need for a fully automated system with professional reporting to support educational enhancement.
- Cutting manual administration
- Integration with Learning Management System (LMS)
- High intelligence on student completion rates
- Automated reporting
- Professional support service
From paper to online: overcoming manual workload
Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) is one of 12 certified public universities in Switzerland. Established in 1996, it has six faculties and is active in several study and research areas including architecture, communication sciences, computational science, data science, economics, health studies, humanities, informatics, law, medicine and biomedicine. USI has campuses in Lugano, Mendrisio and Bellinzona.
Since its formation, USI’s work to capture the views of its now near 4,000 student community through course evaluation surveys has evolved significantly. Originally relying on paper surveys until 2008, it moved to run an internally-developed online system, and then in 2018 the institution was approached by Explorance. Michele Balmelli, who is responsible for Quality Assurance Service, recalled the challenges USI faced.
“When I joined USI in 2006 we were still using paper surveys and the workload was too high,” Michele said. “I had to visit every class during lessons and there were literally tons of paper forms. As a result, there were tons of documents which I had to digitalise, build reports for each course in Excel spreadsheets, and manually email each instructor with these. This was not a lasting solution. However, even when we switched to our own online system, a single form hosted on our website, issues remained. In the end, whilst we had very high participation rates, results were coming in after the end of the semester and after the exams which was too late. Even in a small university likes ours, it still took me at least two weeks to manually report – again, writing to each instructor – and this was not at all satisfactory for teaching colleagues.”
A fully supported course evaluation system
An opportunistic approach by Explorance in late 2018 changed the direction of travel for USI. “We spoke about a more professional solution and, after being assured that Blue was 100% compatible with our LMS, Moodle, I was invited to trial it for two months and that convinced me that this could be our solution,” Michele said. “It was, and still is, a very straightforward system to use (no big IT knowledge is necessary) and as the only person in the University responsible for course evaluations this is important. With excellent training, and a kind and available professional support service, I can run now Blue myself. The basic report is built just once, which is forever repeatable, and it is so easy to manage. The system also allows me to check how many students have responded to the feedback surveys, and from there I can target specific students to fill out the form if needed.”
Reflecting on Blue’s impact, Michele summarised the difference it has made to his own role, to students, and to colleagues. “Today I have a fully supported course evaluation system based on our original model which has cut administration and workload,” he said. “For the students, because it is integrated with Moodle, we can reach them via three different access platforms with requests to complete the feedback. We have also been able to build questionnaires in English and Italian and this is useful for both students and instructors. But the best part of Blue, the feature I like so much, is the powerful automated reporting. This is proving incredibly valuable and we are seeing course/programme modifications as a result of these evaluations, with Programme Directors, Deans and Pro-Rectors also using reports as part of a wider annual 360-degree feedback process. It is already a very good structure, but Explorance always proactively suggests improvements.”
Next-stage innovations and recommendations
With planned future developments including implementing and using Blue’s Data Integrity Gateway (DIG), introducing its feedback dashboard and adding question personalisation functionality, Michele is looking forward to further development of the system. “Overall we are getting higher quality responses for end-of-semester course evaluation surveys, even if a smaller number of students are responding currently, because this gives us the insight to make meaningful decisions,” he said. “I would definitely recommend, and have suggested Blue, to universities in Italy and Switzerland. I am not there to sell, but have been on many calls describing our journey, and shown others this super system.”
Blue•Case study•Course evaluations•Educational experience•Educational technology•Higher education•People insight solutions•