How to Increase Student Evaluation Response Rates

Missouri State Online has seen great improvements in our response rates for our online course evaluations in recent semesters. With the integration of Blackboard survey reminders we have consistently seen response rates of 70% and above. However, with the help of our online faculty we can see further improved student feedback to help us continue to grow quality online courses and programs.

The suggestions below are excerpted from Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices, by Tobin Mandernach, and Taylor.

  • Early reminder, two to three weeks prior. Although we already automatically send reminder messages to students during the evaluation period, one study (Norris & Conn, 2005) noted a great increase in student response rates when students were given an early notification that evaluations were approaching. A reminder at around two to three weeks before the term ended was found to be ideal, raising response rates an average of 17 percent.
  • Reminders into term to check how students are doing. If classes aren’t submitting evaluations at the rates you’d like to see, remind faculty members to mention the evaluations to them in class, letting them know how important their feedback is to them and administrators. Johnson (2002) followed up with nonresponding students in his study, and found that 50 percent of the nonresponders reported having no idea that the survey was available to be taken, and another 16 percent forgot.
  • Make it an assignment. Many faculty members are against offering credit for students to do evaluations. The good news is, you don’t have to. Making an evaluation an assignment, even with no point value attached, raised response rates 7 percent in one study (Johnson, 2002).
  • Give instructions. If they can’t find the online evaluation instrument, they can’t evaluate. One study found that courses in which faculty members demonstrated how to find and use the evaluations system had a 24 percent higher response rate than in courses with no demonstration given (Donmeyer, Baum, Hanna & Chapman, 2004).
  • Stress the importance of evaluation. Students are more likely to complete course evaluations if they understand how they are being used and believe their opinions matter (Gaillard, Mitchell, & Kavota, 2006).
  • Detail how the institution uses evaluation feedback. Many students don’t realize that their evaluations may be looked at by department chairs and by promotion and tenure committees campus-wide. Let them know that these data are valued and used by administrators.
  • Detail how the course instructor will use evaluation feedback. One of the best ways students know that their opinion matters and that it will be used to improve teaching is to give them an example of how that has been done in the past. Share with students some past feedback and let them know the changes that were made as a result. Although it is likely valuable to let students know how the institution uses their feedback, that’s not what their biggest concern is. Chen and Hoshower (2003) found that students consider an improvement in teaching to be the most important outcome of an evaluation system, followed closely by an improvement in course content and format. If the university listens, great. But what students really want is to know that their instructor listens.

(Tobin, Thomas J., Jean Mandernach, and Ann H. Taylor. Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015. Print.)