Feedback from students is an invaluable resource universities and colleges can use to enhance their programs and operations. Course evaluation surveys are one method to collect this information regularly. The quality of your survey questions impacts the usefulness of the data you collect. Creating thorough program evaluation questions for students can help you make informed decisions and improvements.
This guide will explain the importance of student feedback and how to frame your survey questions to get a complete picture of the student experience.
Using Insights to Inspire Progress
Colleges and universities can use data to drive positive changes and achieve institutional goals. By consistently collecting and analyzing student feedback, administrators can make informed decisions to improve student outcomes. From retention rates and student performance to the quality of professor instruction, data is vital to making crucial improvements.
Collecting large volumes of data is key to discovering relevant patterns and relationships that reflect your operations. Data from college course feedback forms can provide a comprehensive view of student performance based on their classroom experience. Student insight is a valuable tool to inspire beneficial changes that you may not have realized otherwise. It's crucial to survey students from their first interaction with your institution until after they graduate.
The Power of Student Voices
The mission of all colleges and universities is to provide students the support they need to improve and expand their knowledge. As the direct recipient of instruction, students have the most valuable perspective on the quality of their education. They can provide valuable insight to help faculty, staff, and administration address challenges and improve operations. Their opinions can help you determine which programs are successful and which ones need improvements.
Student feedback is valuable for the institution and also for the students themselves. Studies show that students who feel like their voices are heard experience greater self-worth, engagement, academic motivation, and sense of purpose. You can harness the power of student voices to improve their academic outcomes and the success of the college or university as a whole.
The Benefits of Gathering Feedback From Students
Most students are full of opinions, but they don't always have the opportunity to share them. Academic program evaluation questionnaires allow students to provide their honest feedback under the protection of anonymity. Course evaluations gather crucial information and ideas that professors and administrators can use to improve their academic programs. Student surveys are beneficial to colleges and universities because they can help:
1. Discover Challenges Early
At a higher education institution with thousands of students, it's challenging for administrators to continuously monitor every student. Professors interact with their students throughout the week, but even they don't have access to insider information. Regularly conducting student surveys helps you catch problems that could otherwise remain unknown. Surveys can reveal minor issues before they turn into something bigger.
Some students feel uncomfortable revealing personal information or asking for help in person. Surveys allow you to identify struggling students who are too nervous to reach out any other way.
2. Inspire Meaningful Goals
Measuring program effectiveness with surveys can help you create meaningful goals that significantly impact students. Students are the best critics because they experience the curriculum firsthand. Their perspectives can drive positive changes for the entire college or university. Customizing your programs to meet your student's needs helps ensure they have the best experience and education possible.
3. Inform Budgeting Decisions
Higher education institutions receive limited funding to cover all their expenses. Survey feedback allows colleges and universities to identify which programs and activities are the most important to students so they can plan their budget accordingly. It also helps administrators identify students' need for grants and other financial resources.
4. Help Navigate Public Relations
With the rise of the internet and social media, colleges and universities work hard to maintain a positive public image. Listening to student feedback from surveys can help you manage potential conflict before it becomes a public issue. It also helps administrators recognize the key values and opinions of the student population to respond better to their concerns. Offering students real solutions to their problems shows that you listen to their feedback and value their perspective.
The Importance of Student Feedback in Online Classrooms
Program evaluations are even more crucial for online educators who have minimal interaction with their students. When the coronavirus pandemic began, many professors found themselves teaching online courses for the first time with minimal training and support. Student feedback helps instructors adapt their traditional courses into an enriching online curriculum for their remote students.
Surveying students in online classrooms can help you adjust your course design to meet their needs. You can ask about their learning-style preferences and which activities and assignments were the most helpful. You can also ask questions to help you improve the structure and organization of your course.
Online instructors must design their classes much differently than professors teaching traditional college courses. Professors who receive regular and effective feedback in their online classroom can adjust their approach to create a better student experience.
Feedback Drives Student Success
Colleges and universities are constantly striving to improve their programs so they can attract more students in the future. Student surveys are just one way higher education institutions can gather feedback to help them achieve this goal. Program evaluations can help administrators identify strategies to boost student retention and graduation rates. This information also helps them make decisions that promote student success and enhance the institution's reputation.
With feedback that guides courses, the students enrolled in these programs can achieve higher performance and enjoy the benefits of their success. The quality of the program impacts the education that students receive. Collecting course feedback helps improve program effectiveness, which in turn helps students reach their educational goals.
Sample Program Evaluation Survey Questions
Asking the right questions is crucial to collecting actionable feedback. Your program evaluation survey should gather information about the instructor, materials, structure, and other aspects of the course. Consider these survey questions to determine the effectiveness of your program:
- Did the instructor present the course material clearly and effectively?
- Was the instructor willing to answer questions to aid your understanding?
- Were the instructor's expectations clearly defined at the beginning of the course?
- Did you receive helpful feedback on assignments?
- Did the assigned textbook help you understand the course material?
- Was the online learning platform updated and accurate?
- Did the reading materials complement the goals of this course?
- Did the assignments and exams accurately reflect the course material?
- Did the instructor create an inclusive and welcoming learning environment?
- Did you attend class regularly?
- Did you consistently prepare for class?
- Would you encourage other students to take this course?
- Did you learn more than you expected in this course?
- Which aspects of this course supported your learning the most?
- What changes would you suggest to improve this course?
Program Evaluation Survey Template
A program evaluation survey is an instrument you can use to gather valuable data to solve challenges and guide your decision-making. You can customize your survey to collect specific information that helps you reach your objectives. There are five key topics you should always include to help gain comprehensive insights. The following topics serve as a template for creating your program evaluation questionnaire:
- Instruction quality: The strategies used to teach the course material will impact student success. Survey feedback can help instructors adjust their curriculum to improve student outcomes. You can ask questions like, "Did the instructor present the course material in an interesting way?"
- Course expectations: When instructors hold their students to high standards, they achieve greater academic success. It shows that their instructors believe in their ability to accomplish challenging tasks. Ask questions to ensure that instructors are enforcing rigorous expectations. For example, "What level of effort did you put forth to advance your learning in this course?"
- Learning environment: Students perform better in a learning environment with respect, inclusivity, and fairness. Survey your students' perception of the classroom climate and make changes if necessary. You could ask, "Did you feel comfortable sharing your opinions in class?"
- Student engagement: When students are engaged in their courses, they are more likely to get good grades, attend class, and stay enrolled. You can measure student retention risks by asking questions about classroom engagement. For example, "Did you consistently participate in class discussions?"
- Personal connection: Students who form a relationship with their instructors tend to achieve higher academic success. They feel a greater sense of belonging and are less likely to drop out of school. Measuring student-teacher relationships with survey questions helps determine the strength of personal connections in the classroom. You could ask, "Do you feel the instructor cared about your progress and success?"
While program evaluation questionnaire templates can provide formatting and topic ideas, you should choose questions tailored to your unique goals. Watermark offers Course Evaluations & Surveys so you can easily create, report, analyze, and share data across your institution. Our software helps colleges and universities capture and analyze student feedback to fuel decisions.
10 Tips for Collecting Feedback
Getting feedback from students in higher ed can be challenging. Your questionnaire's length, style of questions, format, and delivery of the survey can impact the response rate and quality of feedback you receive. The following tips can help you improve your course evaluation process:
1. Encourage Students to Complete the Survey During Class
Asking students to complete an optional survey on their own time will likely have unsuccessful results. Most students may forget or choose not to do it. Giving students time to complete the survey in class can yield a much higher response rate. Most students are happy to take a break from course material to answer a few questions. It only takes 10-15 minutes away from class to collect information that can significantly impact the success of your curriculum in the future.
2. Discuss the Importance of Student Feedback
Students are more likely to provide feedback when they feel like their opinions matter. In the weeks leading up to the survey, explain the importance of their input and how you will use it to make improvements. Share examples of how course evaluations have made a difference in the past.
3. Reward Students for Completing the Survey
Give students an incentive for completing the questionnaire. Offering bonus points is an easy way to increase participation significantly. Setting a target response rate for the entire class may encourage an even higher response rate. For example, you can give bonus points if the class reaches 80% completion. That way, students will encourage their peers to finish the survey so everyone can receive the reward.
4. Include the Purpose of the Survey
In case students missed your discussion on the importance of student feedback, be sure to include the purpose of course evaluations and the value of their responses at the top of your questionnaire. Explain how their feedback will help other students, faculty, and the institution overall.
5. Ask Clear and Specific Questions
A course evaluation survey aims to collect actionable feedback you can use to make improvements. Asking specific questions yields helpful information you can use to achieve this goal. For example, rather than asking, "Did the instructor cover the objectives of this course thoroughly?" you could focus the question on one specific objective at a time.
6. Include a Mix of Closed and Open-Ended Questions
Closed-ended questions have a preselected bank of answers, like multiple choice or true-false questions. Open-ended questions allow the respondent to write their own feedback. While closed-ended questions make it easy to compare large volumes of data, open-ended questions collect detailed insights and opinions from your students. Using a mix of both can help you collect comprehensive feedback in one short, simple survey.
7. Use the Likert Scale
The Likert Scale is a format for scaling survey questions to determine the respondent's attitudes, values, opinions, behaviors, or experiences. A Likert scale question starts with a statement, followed by a five- or seven-point ordered scale of potential answers. You can frame a Likert scale with various response options to measure levels of agreement, importance, satisfaction, difficulty, and many other perspectives. For example, if you're using a five-point Likert scale to measure levels of agreement, the question would appear like this:
The syllabus accurately reflected the course content: Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither disagree or agree, Agree, Strongly agree
Framing your program evaluation questions with the Likert scale allows students to provide a more detailed response than having only two options. It also helps reduce measurement errors when respondents must choose from the available answers, even if they disagree with all of them. Likert scales allow for degrees of opinion for more accurate data that's easy to analyze and understand.
8. Avoid Leading Questions
Leading questions use biased language that may cause students to answer in a certain way that may not reflect their genuine opinion. These questions often sway the respondent to provide feedback that aligns with the goals of the survey creator. Leading questions will skew your results and negatively impact the accuracy of your data.
It's crucial to phrase your questions with neutral language to elicit honest and valuable feedback. For example, instead of asking, "How much did you enjoy this course?" you could ask respondents to rate their satisfaction in the course using a Likert scale.
9. Reconsider Demographic Questions
Demographic questions can be valuable in some circumstances. However, when it comes to student surveys, it's best to ask as few as possible. People value their privacy and confidentiality and have become increasingly hesitant to reveal personal information. Demographic questions may stop students from completing course evaluations, fearing their responses will reveal their identity. Accordingly, remove any irrelevant demographic questions from your survey.
10. Keep Your Survey Short
When creating your program evaluation survey questionnaire, make sure it doesn't get too long. Surveys that are longer than 10-15 minutes may overwhelm your respondents and could degrade the quality of their answers. Choose the most important questions that will provide valuable insights. Shorter surveys tend to have higher completion rates and higher-quality feedback.
How to Utilize Survey Feedback
Once you've successfully collected student feedback, it's time to take action. Higher education institutions can utilize survey data to achieve the following goals:
- Enhance student learning: When students answer program evaluation survey questions, their answers depict the course's strengths and weaknesses. Most college or university students have over a decade of experience learning in the classroom. They know which activities and teaching methods help them learn best. You can use their feedback to make improvements to the course or program overall. Following their guidance can have a positive impact on student learning outcomes at your institution.
- Improve student retention: Student retention is a critical metric for measuring the performance of higher education institutions. Maximizing student retention involves keeping your students satisfied. The main factors that influence student satisfaction are the quality of education you provide and the sense of community you establish. Using student surveys to analyze these variables can help you evaluate student satisfaction on your campus. If students are at risk of not returning, you can make changes to improve satisfaction and increase student retention.
- Create support services: Many students rely on support services to help them achieve their educational goals. Student surveys can help you determine which resources are successful and which could be improved. They also help administrators identify underserved needs that would benefit from new support programs.
- Optimize your operations: Course evaluations can provide valuable insights for organizing and allocating funds for academic programs. Feedback allows administrators to plan and operate programs that will match their students' learning styles and preferences. They can use survey data to choose ideal class times, modality options, instructors, and other essential details. These choices have a significant impact on the funding that each program requires. Institutional leaders can use student feedback to allocate their budget in the most efficient way possible.
- Exceed accreditation standards: Colleges and universities constantly collect and report data to comply with their accreditation program. Regional accreditors will evaluate the quality of your academic programs by looking at student outcomes, the educational environment, financial reports, and student support services. Course evaluation data can help you make positive changes every year to meet and exceed federal and state mandates.
Streamline the Survey Process With Watermark
Using digital course evaluation software to streamline the survey process can help you save time and money. With Watermark, you can create, deliver, and analyze program evaluation surveys with one comprehensive program. Our Course Evaluations & Surveys solution allows students to provide valuable feedback from their computer or mobile devices in real time. The program combines hundreds of surveys into one centralized report that instructors can access immediately. Our software integrates seamlessly with your existing learning management systems without disrupting your current operations.
Take advantage of student feedback in an organized and streamlined way with Watermark. Request a demo today to experience our convenient solutions for yourself!
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