Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates at Your Institution

October 27, 2022 Watermark Insights

Course evaluations provide higher education institutions with meaningful student feedback that can improve campus culture and create a more enriching classroom experience. Despite the importance of evaluations, many colleges and universities have low response rates, making obtaining accurate and valuable data challenging. Knowing how to increase response rates of course evaluations can lead you to collect more meaningful data to drive institutional change. 

Without these responses, higher ed institutions cannot quickly provide students with the change they want to see on campus. Although many administrators and high position holders recognize the importance of this data, many students do not. Review our guide to increasing student responses to discover new ways to connect with your students and encourage them to spark change at your institution. 

What Are Course Evaluations?

Course evaluations are student assessments that detail the classroom culture and describe student emotions regarding the instructor or course materials. Higher ed institutions use this student feedback to improve the curriculum, set campus initiatives, and evaluate instructor effectiveness. This feedback is anonymous so students can discuss their genuine thoughts and feelings. 

Course evaluations can take the form of a multiple choice survey, open response questions, a rating scale, or a combination of any of these. In their responses, students explain their impression of the instruction style, whether they enjoyed course materials and topics, and their overall thoughts on the instructor and class. 

Many institutions administer these assessments at the end of the semester, usually during the final week of classes. However, some colleges and universities also utilize early or midterm reviews to evaluate whether the instructor meets course objectives and student expectations. 

Why Course Evaluations Matter

Course evaluations can improve instructional course quality. These assessments are vital for establishing worthwhile teaching styles and ensuring your students receive the education they seek. Improving the classroom experience can lead to higher retention rates and boost the overall positive culture of your campus.

Instructors can use student feedback to determine if they need to adjust their teaching practices. The changes can lead to more engaging classes and thought-provoking discussions that interest more students. 

Administrators can use this information to set new initiatives and craft a more enriching campus experience for all students. This information can also be beneficial when determining promotions and tenure status for instructors. 

Some benefits of course evaluations include:

  • Evaluating the student experience: Administrators and educators can discover how students feel about their classroom experience. This allows you to get inside their heads and see challenges from their perspectives. 
  • Giving students an active voice: By using student feedback to drive change, you can illustrate to your students that they have a hand in shaping their education. Students can then feel heard and connected with their studies and campus. 
  • Shaping the curriculum: As students depict what they did and did not enjoy about their courses, you can adjust programs and departments to meet their needs. Identify where your curriculum is excelling and where it lacks. 
  • Reimagining teaching practices: Instructors can use feedback to discover which methods work well and which need adjustments. Finding current practices that resonate with students can create a more engaging environment.
  • Creating a positive culture of change: Use student feedback to drive change and show your students that you are constantly seeking to improve your institution. Reshape policies, adjust curricula, and show your students that you care about their experiences. 

Despite the many benefits, plenty of higher ed institutions lack evaluation responses. Without enough data to review, it can be challenging to ignite the change students want to see. Knowing how to increase response rates of course evaluations can aid you in obtaining more meaningful student feedback. 

How to Get Students to Complete Course Evaluations

How to Get Students to Complete Course Evaluations

Improving the student response rate is critical for obtaining the data you need to set new initiatives and meet student needs. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we've compiled a list of strategies you can try. You may find a combination of various tactics to prompt your students to complete course evaluations or find one technique that stands out at your institution. 

1. Inform Them of the Importance

Although administrators and instructors understand the importance of course evaluations, students may not. If your students have not witnessed significant change, they may be hesitant to believe in the assessment's value. Combat reservations by showing them the changes you've already made to improve student experiences. 

Explain what you hope to gain from the current assessments and how you want to use their feedback. When you say students have an active hand in shaping their education, they may feel more inclined to give you meaningful answers. 

2. Make the Process Easy

Students may feel less inclined to complete an assessment if it involves a time-consuming process. Ensure you've made the process simple to finish and guide students through the steps. Whether using online surveys or handing out papers in class, show them how quickly they can complete the evaluation and where to turn in the information. 

3. Offer Some Incentives

Some students may be more likely to complete a course evaluation if you provide an immediate incentive. Although instructors cannot offer class credit for course completion, other rewards or prizes may spark interest. Contact local businesses and present a gift card from a family restaurant in town for 10 random respondents. Or, offer a student from each department a campus store bundle. 

4. Provide Class Time for Completion

Giving students class time to complete evaluations makes them more likely to think through their answers because they have the time to do so. Students are very busy, especially at the end of the semester. Giving them time to finish evaluations can increase the chance they dedicate the time they deserve. 

5. Use Communication Channels

Using communication channels to urge students to complete assessments may be the push they need. You can link the surveys elsewhere if instructors are not distributing the evaluations. Posting daily announcements, listing evaluations on the school website, and adding information to the syllabus may encourage students to finish their evaluations. 

6. Demonstrate the Process

Sometimes students intend to complete their assessments, but other variables get in the way. If your institution uses online course evaluations, your students could benefit from knowing how to submit them. This can eliminate the chances that technological errors get in the way of submission. 

7. Send Reminders to Students

With so many things in students' minds, it can be easy to forget to complete a course evaluation. Sending reminders can increase the chances they will remember to finish the assessment. Use email reminders, encourage instructors to announce them in class, and post links on other daily web pages so more students are likely to see them. Try to narrow down these communications to those who haven't submitted their evaluations yet.

Improve Response Rates With Watermark

At Watermark, we know information drives changes, and it's easier to do so when you have meaningful responses in your arsenal. We understand student feedback is essential for higher ed, so we created Course Evaluations & Surveys

With our program, you can engage with students right where they are. With language compatibility and deep LMS integration capabilities, you can increase your response rates in no time. On top of rising response rates, you can efficiently distribute information with your team and turn insights into actionable steps to reach institution initiatives.  

Improve response rates for course evaluations. Request a Course Evaluations & Surveys demo, and see what Watermark can do for you. 

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