Whether they loved a class or weren't thrilled with the experience, students appreciate the opportunity to give their instructors and professors feedback at the end of a class term. But asking students to complete multiple course evaluations can cause them to disengage or feel fatigued with the process.
If your institution has a lot of course evaluations to distribute, knowing how to overcome survey fatigue helps ensure you get the responses you need.
What Is Survey Fatigue?
Survey fatigue occurs when a person becomes tired of or disinterested in taking surveys or completing evaluations. When a rater or survey-taker is fatigued, the answers they provide might not be the most accurate. For example, a tired student might give a course an “average” rating across the board because they can't fully engage with the survey questions. If asked to type in their response to a question, they might enter as few details as possible.
Survey fatigue takes two forms. The first is response fatigue. It develops when a student is asked to complete too many evaluations. They might begin to ignore requests.
The second type of survey fatigue is survey-taking fatigue. It can develop when a person is in the middle of completing an evaluation and just wants to "get it over with." They might abandon the survey or answer the remaining questions as quickly as possible.
Luckily, it is possible to avoid both types of survey fatigue and ensure you get accurate, detailed responses.
How to Prevent Survey Fatigue: 7 Tips
To prevent survey fatigue, you need ways to structure course evaluations for high engagement. Follow these tips to helps students avoid and overcome survey fatigue:
1. Limit Evaluations
Some schools have students complete a course evaluation for every class they take during a term. If a student takes one or two classes, they aren't likely to become tired of completing their evaluations. But the process can be time-consuming and dull for students taking a full course load.
Instead of asking students to fill out an evaluation for every course, consider limiting each student to one or two evaluations per term. Since a student might have particularly strong feelings about one course or instructor and not another, let them choose the evaluations they complete.
2. Keep Surveys Short and Sweet
Response and survey-taking fatigue can set in when students are asked to complete lengthy evaluations. A student might click away from an evaluation midway through if they find themselves 30 minutes into the process with no end in sight.
An ideal length for class evaluations is around 15 minutes. Any longer and fatigue sets in enough that the quality of a response drops. Plus, there's a greater chance of students abandoning a course evaluation that's taking too long to complete.
How many questions to include on a 15-minute evaluation depends on their complexity. If you're asking students to provide detailed information about their experience, err on the side of fewer questions. Ten to 20 questions shouldn't take more than 15 minutes to answer for a multiple-choice survey. If you use a combination of open-ended and scaled questions, opt for fewer questions in each category.
3. Ask the Right Questions
The better the questions on a class evaluation, the better the responses you'll get. Often, it's easiest to give students response options, such as "Strongly Agree," Neutral," and “Strongly Disagree.” You can also ask yes or no questions to keep things simple for the student.
Even though each department might have different goals for the evaluations, having the same questions or a similar set of questions on each evaluation can help speed up the response process for students, reducing the chance of fatigue.
It's also important to write the questions clearly and make sure a student immediately understands what's being asked. Giving them multiple options in the same question, such as, “Was the instructor on time and organized?” can make survey-takers unsure what they are answering. Split these into shorter questions focused on one topic, such as, “Was the instructor on time?” and, “Was the instructor organized?”
While you don't want to have too many open questions that require longer text responses, give students at least one question that can accept a longer answer. Students who have a lot to say are likely to express themselves freely without feeling overburdened.
4. Make the Survey Accessible
Instructors might not want to set aside class time for evaluations, and students might have difficulty returning paper copies. One way to streamline the process and keep students from feeling fatigued is to make the survey as easy to get to and submit as possible.
One option is to put the evaluations online and link them to your school's learning management system (LMS). When students log into their LMS to access their coursework, they'll see the survey and can easily open it and fill it out.
Since many students rely on their mobile devices, it's also a good idea to make course evaluations mobile optimized. Students can complete their evaluations on their smartphones when they have a bit of downtime between classes or studying. They are less likely to grow tired of completing evaluations when the process is frictionless.
5. Share the Value of the Survey
Students might quickly tire of filling out course evaluations when they don't see the value or purpose in doing so. Communicate the reasons for the survey with students. A department might use the responses to decide which classes to offer next term or improve courses based on students' comments.
It can also be worthwhile to show students the results of their evaluations, whether those results include offering more sections of a popular course or making adjustments to class policies. If they feel their responses make a difference, people are less likely to get tired of completing surveys.
6. Stagger the Surveys
Another way to keep people from developing survey fatigue is to stagger the timing of course evaluations. While it's common for students to fill out evaluations at the end of the term, collecting some midterm responses can also be worthwhile. One option might be to have half the class fill out a survey midway through the session and the other half complete an evaluation at the end. Similarly, half of your school's courses can have midterm evaluations and the rest end-of-term evaluations.
7. Let Students Save Surveys
A student might get bored or tired midway through a course evaluation. Giving them the option to save their progress and return later can improve the responses you get and increase the chances of a student completing the survey, rather than abandoning it halfway through.
Explore Our Course Evaluation Resources and Request a Demo
Course evaluations give you insight into the quality of your course offerings and instruction. Students' responses can help your institution grow and make ongoing improvements. Watermark's Course Evaluations & Surveys solution gives you the ability to collect surveys online, which increases response rates and cuts down on survey fatigue.
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