One of the greatest challenges our Member Campuses face is attaining and maintaining strong response rates during the course evaluation process. Given the weight these rates often carry in promotion, tenure and hiring processes, and assessment and curriculum development, securing high rates is critical. We acknowledge that there are many moving parts involved in improving response rates, making it a difficult undertaking. Through research, experience and the shared expertise of our Course Evaluations team members, we have compiled this comprehensive guide on how to improve response rates and ultimately, strengthen your institution’s teaching and learning environment.
Of course, high response rates do not automatically equate with strong feedback or even a strong culture of assessment. But, high response rates are indicators of feedback that, if used constructively, can improve teaching and learning on campus. Strategies used to raise response rates should be paired with education on the value course evaluations. By building a culture that values course evaluations assessment, you will ensure no only high response rates, but thoughtful responses.
To help you identify which particular area or strategy you are looking to adopt on campus, see the table of contents below.
A note on statistically significant response rates
We do not officially recommend any specific response rate because feedback from even low-response courses can yield helpful information. Of course, the higher the response rate, the greater the validity of feedback. So, instructors and institutions should work to get the highest response rates they can.
For decisions about the effectiveness of instruction, we generally consider at least 10 student responses to be necessary for acceptable reliability. The standard error gets beyond + .3 on the 5-point scale if the number dips below that. Whereas we would typically recommend ratings from at least 6-8 classes before making summative decisions, when the numbers are lower--say less than 10--we recommend 10-12 classes.
However, for formative decisions, even a smaller number of student respondents can provide meaningful feedback. Our research shows that class size is only negligibly related to ratings, so the information could still be helpful for decisions about how to modify the course.
|Incentivizing Course Evaluations||Site Administrator|
|Senior Sponsor (Provosts, Deans, etc.)||Department Chair|
Incentivizing Course Evaluations:
The topic of incentivizing course evaluations is controversial. Some are strongly opposed, while others see its benefits. We believe that context is key, and that this strategy can be effective, if handled carefully. But of course the question is, does incentivizing work?
As described in the 2014 article "The Effect of Incentives and other Instructor-Driven Strategies to Increase Online Evaluation Response Rates," James Goomdan, Robert Anson and Marcia Belcheir conducted a study in which they found that 22% of faculty participants offered some type of incentive to their students for completing their evaluations. This resulted in a response rate of 79%. In comparison, classes that were not incentivized resulted in a 57% response rate, which is still relatively high. This particular study went on to assess individual tactics and their effectiveness, and the results of these practices all culminated in at least some increase in response rates.
Depending on your institution’s preferences, using incentives to increase response rates is an effective tactic backed by research. Administrators, faculty, and senior sponsors (like chairs and deans) can all use this tactic. Below are some suggestions for incentivizing student participation in Course Evaluations.
- Individual Prizes: Some administrators have used the strategy of a lottery. If students complete their course evaluations, they enter a lottery to win a tangible prize (i.e. bookstore gift card, free parking for a semester, iPad, t-shirt). This is a strong way to elicit engagement, though it is highly dependent on campus resources. Chairs and deans can also offer a lunch meeting as a prize. For students looking to further their education, this could be a great opportunity to get some one-on-one time with a professional in the field.
- Group Prizes. Some faculty who teach multiple course sections will offer some kind of prize to the class with the highest response rate (pizza party, extra credit, etc.). Conversely, some faculty set a threshold and if their class meets the threshold they get a prize (i.e., if we hit an 80% response rate, everyone gets an extra percentage point on their final grade).
- Class participation. Faculty can make completing course evaluations part of the class participation grade. To implement this strategy, faculty may have to require students to submit proof of their completed course evaluations (such as a screenshot) as an assignment.
Depending on your institution's attitude toward incentives, many of these ideas will need to be discussed at a high leadership level. Department chairs should discuss incentives with faculty, and there should never be any pressure placed on individual faculty to offer incentives.
Strategies for Site Administrators:
The site administrator has complete access to the tool. They are responsible for the maintenance and direction of Course Evaluations, including contributing to the initial site construction, controlling settings, determining users and permissions, and understanding the detailed functionality of the tool. With this level of access, here are some suggested actions:
- Setting up Mailings: Mailings are an essential way to communicate with various audiences. For student-facing communication, mailings can inform students that an administration is open and remind them to complete open evaluations. Reminder emails for students will only be sent to those who have not completed their evaluations. For faculty and report administrators, mailings can remind them to encourage the completion of course evaluations, to select learning objectives (if an IDEA school), or to check out their reports. Bear in mind that you can create templates for mailings. This will avoid the need to create a new template each time you set up a mailing. Please reference the following support articles for more information on mailings: How to Schedule Mailings and Creating a Mailing Template. We also have Mailing Template Examples for your reference.
- Viewing Student Completion: Campus administrators may export a list of students who have/have not completed their assigned evaluations for a particular term. You can also follow an administration's response rates in real time by navigating to the Administration Details Page. Use this information to decide if you should schedule more reminders to students. Please see Viewing Student Completion.
- Extending an Administration: If needed, you can extend administration end dates, as long as the administration has not closed. To do this, select which administration you would like to edit under the "Administrations" page. Once you have selected the administration, click on the Edit Details button to adjust the dates.
Strategies for Marketing:
Getting the word out about course evaluations is an effective way to increase student engagement and potentially boost response rates. Depending on campus resources, we have several examples of marketing that can be utilized across campus.
- Marketing Plan: Develop a strategic marketing plan in conjunction with your marketing department, or independently. Having a carefully orchestrated method for disseminating course evaluations information will help track your success.
- Flyers: Utilize your campus' bulletin boards to maximize their potential with flyers about course evaluations. The content of flyers can be adjusted depending on the audience.
Please see additional specific examples from current member campuses, attached at the end of this guide.
- Campus Media: Employ your campus newspaper, radio station, and TV station to advertise the course evaluation period. Publish that course evaluations are available for students on your campus homepage. If the campus website is the homepage for computers in your computer labs, students will see this message immediately.
- Social Media: Utilizing social media is effective in terms of cost and visibility. Individual departments, colleges, or even the institution can use social media accounts to spread the word about course evaluations. This could entail short announcements for upcoming evaluations, showcasing student feedback on the Course Evaluations experience, and/or sharing any pertinent memes or gifs to grab students’ attention! Here are two examples of memes that Biola University shared through their social media!
Strategies utilizing the IT team:
Our Course Evaluations tool has the ability to share authentication with a Learning Management System via LTI. Working with your IT team to install an LTI within your LMS (i.e. Canvas, Blackboard) is a great way to increase the visibility of the Course Evaluations platform. Since many students work in their LMS on a daily basis, this also helps reduce the chance they forget where and how to access their course evaluations.
For the technologically savvy, there is the option of utilizing an API to pull the data from your institution’s SIS into Course Evaluations. Member campuses have used this to allow students early access to their final grades as long as they have submitted their evaluations by a certain date. Setting this up would involve your institution’s IT team so please be sure to speak with your consultant for more information if you are interested.
Here is an example of an LMS notification from University of North Carolina - Pembroke:
Senior Sponsor Involvement (Provosts, Deans, etc.):
Ensuring that administrators and leadership are invested in the course evaluations process is a critical step in creating a strong culture of assessment. Below are some strategies to increase the involvement of senior sponsors in a meaningful way. Senior sponsors can draft an email to share with deans, chairs and faculty on the value of course evaluations for their particular institution and some words of encouragement.
- Administrator feedback literacy and awareness: Explaining how feedback is utilized at both the college and institutional level will help to create an open and transparent conversation among provosts, deans, chairs and faculty.
- Department Meeting Attendance: Deans can work with department chairs to coordinate attending department meetings to discuss the process and value of course evaluations from the administrative perspective in person.
- Monitor faculty response rates: Report administrator access allows you to monitor response rates for all faculty members teaching course sections under your organizational unit level (for example, if you are the provost you should have access to all faculty members under the division of Academic Affairs). As provost or dean, you can use the opportunity to meet with department chairs to discuss how their instructors are faring. Additionally, a dean could identify 3 instructors per department with high response rates and commend them on their response rates, either privately or via some public recognition or prize.
Department Chair Involvement:
Because of their consistent level of interaction with faculty, department chairs should find ways to demonstrate the value of course evaluations and improve faculty buy-in.
- Department meetings: Use department meetings to discuss the process and value of course evaluations with faculty.
- Faculty Feedback Literacy & Awareness: Be transparent with faculty about how course evaluations feedback is being used in the promotion, tenure, and rehiring process. This can be shared with faculty during department meetings in addition to email communication.
- Learn from your faculty: As a report administrator at the department level, you should have access to your faculty’s reports (check with your site administrator if you need additional help with this). This level of access will allow you to identify individual faculty members with high response rates and meet with them to discuss their approach and any suggestions they might have to share with other faculty in the department.
- Faculty incentives: Depending on department resources, you could offer an incentive to faculty members who reach a certain percentage of response rates. The incentive could be a gift certificate to Amazon or a local bookstore to use for research and professional development purposes, a gift card to a coffee shop on campus, or, if possible, first choice in selecting the course of their preference for the following semester.
- Research: Share recent research on course evaluations with faculty. Anthology does a great deal of research on its own, much of which can be accessed on our website. For example, Dr. Tyler Rinker, a member of the Data Science Team, wrote a particularly poignant blog post on how using data about a student’s perception of the classroom can strengthen teaching and learning in higher education. The blog post, entitled “What Are You Learning From Your Course Evaluations?” can be accessed here. The online journal of Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education is also an excellent resource.
- Monitor faculty feedback rates: Report administrator access allows you to monitor response rates during an active administration. Use the opportunity to communicate with individual faculty members ways they might be able to improve, offer support and resources, or applaud their strong feedback. Please refer to our support article Reporting Guide for Deans and Chairs for more information.
Strategies for Faculty:
Faculty members can have the greatest impact on evaluation response rates due to their frequent interactions with students. The following strategies offer ways to capitalize on this potential for impact.
- Setting Aside Class Time: Instructors can carve out time in class to have students complete their evaluations using a cell phone, tablet or laptop. For in-person classes, instructors can step out of the room while this is happening. Make sure to communicate with students ahead of time so they come prepared.
- Direct Access Link: Instructors can provide a unique evaluation link to enrolled students for direct access to a course section's evaluation. Only students enrolled in the course section will be authenticated into the evaluation, bypassing the landing page. During class, instructors can post the "Direct Access Link" on the board/projector for students to access from their mobile device. Please refer to this support article for instructions.
- Talk to students about the importance of Course Evaluations. Openly communicating with students about why you collect their feedback and what you do with it will show them the impact of their words and instill a culture of assessment. This leads to higher response rates and more thoughtful responses. There are various ways that you can communicate this message to students, including in-class discussion, personal email, and a syllabus statement. Check out these sample syllabus statements, written by faculty (and current Anthologists) Katie Grennell and Tina Colvin:
- Monitor Response Rates: Our Course Evaluations tool allows faculty to monitor their response rates in an active administration. For example, if you notice that your response rates are rather low for a large class and the administration is halfway over, you can use the remainder of the time to encourage students in class to complete them and follow-up with reminder emails. Please refer to the following support article instructing faculty on how to view response rates: How to View your Response Rates.
- Feedback: Feedback is a tool that was created to allow instructors to receive formative feedback from students throughout the semester. Instructors have the ability to start a Feedback session in which their students will answer six questions related to high impact teaching practices and a single question that asks students if they understood the material that was covered. Feedback session results allow instructors to identify trends in student perceptions of their instruction and make improvements as soon as the next class. Please refer to the following support article for more information: Feedback Tool.
In addition to the resources and suggestions provided above, our support site hosts additional resources on best practices, managing your administrations, and everything else in between. Visit our Course Evaluations support page here. For any technical issues related to Course Evaluations, or to connect with your consultant, please submit a support ticket at the following link: support.campuslabs.com/ticket.
Here at Anthology, we are dedicated to supporting you along your assessment journey. It is our hope that this guide provides you with the tools needed to improve your response rates and your overall culture of assessment on campus. Please reach out to your consultant with any questions or concerns!