The survey instrument provided by my employer to students for their evaluation of faculty teaching is atrociously vague and unvalidated, so I typically create my own. In the olden days I used paper surveys, but of course those are not truly anonymous and pulling data from them is a pain. Then I migrated to the university’s learning management system — in the past, Blackboard; now, Canvas. Constructing online surveys required some extra time and effort on the front end, but automated tabulation of results more than made up for it.
This past semester I decided to use Google Forms to survey one class as an experiment. My survey is here — it’s a .pdf of screen capture, so you’ll need to zoom in to make the text large enough to read.
Pros of Google Forms include:
- Creating surveys is very easy because of intuitive layout and navigation.
- There are a wide variety of question types that can be used, including text boxes, multiple choice, checklists, and numerical scales.
- Results are automatically presented in a spreadsheet that is easily read and can be downloaded in a variety of formats. Calculating sums and averages is easy.
- The instructor can provide students with the survey’s web URL and they immediately have access — instead of being confronted with the disincentive of having to create an account or follow complicated instructions.
An online survey obviously does not have the same discussion-stimulating immediacy of Post-It™ notes stuck on a classroom wall. And there is a good chance that an anonymous online survey will have a lower response rate and provide less feedback than a survey administered in class. On the other hand, using the Post-It™ note method is problematic in a survey course with a few hundred students. In other words, as Simon has said about online vs. face to face interaction, neither of the two methods is necessarily any better or worse than the other, they are just different.
What is more important than the mode of delivery is the nature of the questions. In both the ABC exercise and in my Google Form, students are asked to specifically identify what they do and don’t like about a course and explain why, which requires some reflection on their part about their own learning.