One of the most consistent questions we get from our customers is about promoting online course evaluations to their students. With each higher education institution (HEI) serving a unique student population and response rates being one of the biggest concerns, we understand that we have to make recommendations that cater to each distinctive climate. Fortunately, we’ve been doing this for a while and with over 9 million users worldwide we have enough examples to offer tried-and-true practices. Here are a few tactics to increase response rates in course evaluations used by Blue powered HEIs.
1 – Change the Course Evaluation Culture: Some institutions recognize that a change in student attitude starts with a change in their culture of course evaluations. When Vanderbilt University decided to switch their course evaluation system, a committee comprising both students and faculty made recommendations that highlighted the importance of culture and its potential impact on response rates. Specifically, they endorsed the need to:
- Educate students about the course evaluation process and their role in it
- Inform students that their grades are submitted before instructors are given access to course evaluation results
- Make course evaluations a formative process to “better serve students, teachers, and administrators”
- Rewrite course evaluation questions to ensure that students clearly understand them
- Modernize the course evaluation delivery method to one that is more flexible for their tech-savvy and on-the-go student population
Vanderbilt University identified and chose Blue as the course evaluation software that met their goals and the system was implemented in fall 2016. (Reference: Analysis and Recommendations of the Committee to Reevaluate Evaluations).
2 – Shift Policies about Sharing Results: Before Blue some institutions with multiple campuses and teaching sites, like the University of Minnesota (UMN), were using various systems to conduct course evaluations. This meant that there was no standardized methodology to collect and share institution-wide student feedback. Once Blue was implemented across all five campuses, UMN changed their policy to allow general publication of course specific results to aid students as they select classes. Now that students are getting something back from their ratings they’ll be more motivated to participate in course evaluations. (Reference: University of Minnesota Case Study).
3 – Ensure Confidentiality and Anonymity: Confidentiality is integral to the success of course evaluations as it has a direct impact on student participation. Using a sophisticated online system like Blue enables institutions to confidently offer students the security they need to complete course evaluations. In their Blue course evaluation FAQs Washington State University assured students that “[c]ourse evaluation results shared with faculty and departments do not include your name or any other individually-identifiable information” (reference: FAQs for Students). They also guaranteed that faculty members only received results after final grades are released. The Lebanese American University has a similar message on their information technology website highlighting the anonymity of the participants and other security measures that Blue offers.
4 – Promote the Importance of Student Feedback: Western University has created several videos to highlight why course evaluations are important to their teaching and learning mission. Each video features Western professors and decision makers explaining how students can use Blue questionnaires to tell instructors how they want to learn. The Instructors in the videos describe their personal relationship with student feedback data and the ways they’ve used it to deliver better content and improve their methodology in the past.
5 – Highlight Accessibility and Ease-of-Use: Western University also created a short video that demonstrates the simple steps of completing the mobile version of Blue course evaluations. Clearly optimized for a smaller screen, the video walks through the entire process starting with receiving the email notification, accessing the email with direct link, single sign in via the portal, a view of the layout of questions, open ended comments, and the thank you message. The idea behind the video is to highlight how answering Blue questionnaires is easy and intuitive for mobile respondents.
Western also used their Your Feedback page to emphasize other Blue features that were designed to streamline the course evaluation experience for students. These include:
- Flexibility: Students can answer anytime, anywhere, and from any device
- Accessibility: Blue questionnaires are “compatible with current assistive technologies, making it accessible to all end users”.
Stay tune for the next installment in this blog series “To Faculty: How Blue Powered Institutions Approach Course Evaluations”.
Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, eXplorance