Target, respons rate and timing
A course evaluation is a tool for both the student and the teacher. The target group and the timing will have a direct effect on the respons rate of the evaluation.
The primary user of an evauluation is the teacher. The evaluation process makes course analysis and course development easier for the teacher and allows discussions with other teachers who share the same basis for discussion. Further users of results or of course analyses are Directors of Study, Program Directors and Directors of First and Second Cycle Education working on quality assurance, and those assessing teaching skills for recruitment or promotion.
Students reflecting in groups on the learning environment in various courses and giving teachers further feedback for their course analyses. By studying the course analysis, the student can form a notion of what the teacher has previously considered necessary to change. Among other aspects, the student can see whether these changes have had results. The student play a very important role in this work and can support the teacher’s change efforts by giving feedback on the course.
Web-based questionnaires introduce a new problem: low response rate. Getting students (or people in general) to fill out web-based questionnaires has proved to be more difficult than getting in answers to paper questionnaires. A crucial question connected to this is whether the answers on the web-based questionnaire can be regarded as representing all of the students when the response rate is low. This has been investigated by Borell and Gudmundsson (2009). Two courses at the Faculty of Engineering, LTH, Lund University, were studied and statistical analysis showed that the difference between students who answer a web-based questionnaire and those that do not is very small. They drew the conclusion that the students who answer using a web-based course questionnaire are representative of all students.
When is the best time to distribute the evaluation?
A further factor that has proved to be important with respect to response rate is when the questionnaire is carried out. Earlier, it was easy to distribute a paper questionnaire in conjunction with one of the final scheduled activities on the course and the students were then allowed time to fill it out. A web-based questionnaire is often sent out by e-mail, which means that the students themselves choose when to read the e-mail and often there is no classroom time allocated to filling out the questionnaire. Consequently, the response rate in general is lower. Regular reminders increase the response rate but may also be experienced as irritating by the students who have not submitted their questionnaire.