How do you know which aspects of your course were best received by your students? Which elements were confusing? What should you change, or keep the same, for your next class?
To answer these questions, thoroughly evaluate your course following each offering. Review each element you’ve included: content, page layout, tools, technology, etc. Make changes according to the data you collect, when the time is right. It can be tempting to continuously update the course as a semester progresses, but this will potentially confuse students and take your focus away from teaching. Instead, it’s a best practice to keep a log of ideas for improvement, then tackle the bigger changes when the semester is complete. This will also help your time spent to be more efficient. After all, you want the course to be the best it can be.
There are lots of free tools available to help you ask the right questions, measure the right responses, and analyze the results. Creating surveys is a great way to evaluate the success of various elements of your course.
Writing a survey can be a new experience for instructors. Follow best practices to develop surveys that are simple, relevant, and unbiased.
- Ask 10 questions or fewer
- Include questions that intentionally collect data you have a specified use for; don’t ask questions that are not purposeful
- Ensure all possible responses are represented
- Include free response questions; they provide the opportunity for students to share their thoughts
- Set expectations for the user experience in the survey instructions, such as length of time the survey is anticipated to take
- Incentives, if it’s possible to offer them, can persuade students to complete a survey
Consider whether your evaluation will be anonymous or if students will give feedback tied to their name. Depending on the type of feedback you’re interested in, an anonymous evaluation may be best.
For example, if you’re conducting a mid-semester evaluation and want honest student feedback on what is and isn’t working in the course, students may be more inclined to be open and provide constructive criticism if they are protected by anonymity.
Alternatively, an emergency evaluation may be offered as an opportunity to receive personally identifiable feedback to determine which students are struggling with something like accessing a video or reading, for example.
Rubrics and Checklists
Utilize course quality rubrics and checklists that can help you evaluate your course pre-semester or post-semester. For example, a tool like Quality Matters can help you evaluate your overall course design. An accessibility review of your course materials should also be conducted anytime a content change is made to ensure your materials are accessible by all students. And, depending on your institution’s region and accreditation standards, considering compliance requirements (PDF, 170KB) is critical.
Course statistics within your LMS can reveal which course elements students engaged with most and may help you identify areas students underutilized. Blackboard, Moodle, and other LMS platforms have various reporting mechanisms to help you sift through this data. Canvas, for example, has course statistics that display trends such as student log in and course access data, assignment submissions, and file storage information. For video and audio files in Canvas, Insights can help you determine how students interacted with the multimedia.
Depending on the type of evaluation conducted, your software may have valuable reporting capabilities. Qualtrics, for instance, has robust data analysis capabilities. Learning the basics of how to read respondent data can help you determine which student feedback to prioritize and assist you with identifying the areas of your course that students are most drawn to.