How to Create the Best Course Evaluations

October 6, 2020 Nikki Kowbel

More than ever, it’s critical to get direct feedback from your students. Here’s how to create effective course evaluations students will actually complete, giving you the data you need to make improvements.

Define your goals.

Before you start trying to create the best course evaluation questions, determine what you’re trying to measure with the course evaluation and how the information will be used. Some common focus areas include course structure, communication tools, or teaching methods.

Be consistent across courses and across campus.

Students take courses across departments and programs, so make sure the base questions and survey length are consistent regardless of which course is under review. Consider using targeted surveys to measure specific elements of a program or course.

Ask the right questions.

Clearly state the purpose of the evaluation up front, so that your goal is clear to the student. Questions should be clear, specific, and targeted. Be sure each question addresses a single criteria, and avoid leading questions that introduce bias. (For example, avoid questions like, “The instructor was available to answer questions offline, and all of our course materials were easily accessible online.”)

Open-ended feedback can be incredibly valuable, but you need to be strategic when asking for it. If you include write-in questions, be sure to clearly indicate what type of feedback you’re looking for (as opposed to using a generic field like “Additional Comments”).

Keep it short.

Be strategic about the questions you’re including and limit the number of custom questions teachers and administrators are able to add. Be mindful that students need to complete multiple evaluations, so keep it brief and to the point.

And tell students how long it should take them to fill it out when you send the survey. When they know what to expect, they can set aside enough time to complete it, which reduces the inclination to opt out.

Confidentiality is key.

Reinforce to students that feedback is anonymous and that any responses will be kept confidential. This encourages candid feedback and helps boost response rates.

Use digital course evaluation software to manage the process. 

An online course evaluation solution like Course Evaluations & Surveys (formerly EvaluationKIT) makes it convenient for students to provide feedback anytime, anywhere. If you aren’t getting valuable feedback from your course evaluations, or have questions about how to do a course evaluation, Watermark can help. Learn more about Course Evaluations & Surveys (formerly EvaluationKIT) here.

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