Normally, at the end of the semester you’d expect to receive feedback from your students through the Online Course Questionnaire (OCQ), evaluating your course and your instruction. This feedback is important because it suggests ways for you to improve your teaching in the future; in addition, the responses can be a key part of your teaching dossier.
Because of the pivot to remote teaching caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the OCQ will not be required on the IUB campus for the spring 2020 semester (check with your department for local options, as some departments are allowing instructors to gather OCQ data, although the results cannot be used in instructor evaluations). Even though this may eliminate an important source of instructional feedback, you may nevertheless want to get some feedback from your students about your teaching strategies and the effectiveness of your instruction. This blog post will help you do that.
What tool should I use to gather feedback from students?
There are three tools available to gather anonymous feedback from students: an ungraded survey in Canvas, a Google form, or a survey in Qualtrics. Ungraded surveys are an option in Canvas Quizzes, so it’s a familiar interface both for you and for your students. However, students may be concerned that their responses won’t be truly anonymous if they enter them in Canvas. A Google form is an app available on Google Drive and is relatively simple to set up. A survey in Qualtrics is more complicated to set up, but allows for more flexibility in question types and survey structure. Your choice of tool might be determined by how much time you want to spend designing your survey, and what tools you and your students are most comfortable with.
What questions should I ask?
Your survey will probably consist of two types of questions: Likert-scale questions (that use the “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” scale), and open-ended questions.
The Likert-scale questions should be short statements that address pedagogical best practices:
- Course goals and objectives were clearly communicated to me.
- Class time was used effectively to support my learning.
- Out-of-class assigned work (readings, homework, etc.) was effective in helping me learn.
- My instructor was available to help me and answer questions.
- Course assessments (exams, quizzes, papers, etc.) fairly reflected my learning.
You might also consider writing a few items referring to specific teaching strategies you used—in-class group work or guest speakers, for example—so that you can get feedback on them. If you’re interested in obtaining feedback about the online portion of your course—if you’re planning to teach online again in the future, for example—you might include a few simple questions specifically about online strategies you used: meetings in Zoom, Kaltura videos, or online assignments, perhaps.
- The online Zoom class meetings were useful to my learning.
- The recorded lectures were clear and useful.
- I felt the online workload was manageable.
- The interaction with my classmates in online discussions was useful to my learning.
You should also include a few open-ended questions to get feedback about other aspects of the course. These can be simple and general:
- What are some things your instructor did that helped you learn?
- What are some things your instructor did that made it more difficult for you to learn?
This would also be an opportunity to ask questions about the online portions of the course:
- Referring to the online part of the course, what worked well? What should be changed?
- What were your greatest challenges in remote learning for this course? (e.g., technology/internet access, personal motivation, managing life stresses, etc.)
- How well did our live Zoom class meetings work for you? What would have made those more helpful to your learning?
- How well did the recorded lectures help you learn? What could have made those more useful for you?
Keep in mind that the design of your feedback survey—both the number and the type of questions—is completely up to you. If you’re teaching a large class and want to easily detect trends in your students’ responses, you may want to ask more Likert-scale questions. On the other hand, if you want richer, more detailed feedback, open-ended questions are best, particularly if your class is small. In fact, you could choose to include only open-ended questions if your main concern is obtaining actionable information.
- If students could get confused about whether particular items refer to the first half of the semester, the second half, or the entire semester, you should specify what part of the course your questions refer to. Consider a pre-break and a post-break section.
- Keep the survey short: no more than 12 Likert-scale items, plus 3-4 open-ended questions.
- You might want to preface your survey with a message like this, which acknowledges that the semester was challenging for you as the instructor as well as for the students while also assuring students that their responses are anonymous,:
The COVID-19 pandemic required everyone to make significant changes to their instructional and pedagogical practices this semester. The past few weeks have been challenging for me as a novice at online instruction, and I appreciate that they have been challenging for you as well. Nevertheless, I would appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism about the course and my teaching both before and after the pivot to online instruction. Your responses will be gathered anonymously; please do your best to be honest and thoughtful in your feedback. Thank you.
Can I include this feedback in my dossier? Should I include it?
In addition to using this feedback to improve your teaching, you also may want to include it in your dossier to document your teaching. However, several considerations argue against this idea.
- Your survey will consist of different questions from the OCQ, posed on a different platform, so the results won’t be comparable to those obtained using the OCQ.
- The OCQ has layers of security to guarantee that responses are truly anonymous. You can’t make the same guarantee, either to students or to people reading your dossier.
- When you pivoted to remote teaching, you were undoubtedly forced to make compromises in your instructional strategies and your teaching style. You shouldn’t be judged on that basis, particularly if you’ve never taught online before.
- If your students experienced frustrations using platforms such as Kaltura or Zoom, they may want to vent their frustrations in your survey, even though you had no control over those problems.
Rather than viewing this feedback as summative, it’s best to focus on it as formative feedback, intended to help you improve your teaching. If in spite of these concerns, you want to include some of the data you collect in a teaching dossier, you may want to discuss your decision with your department chair.
Getting more help
If you want more help with getting feedback from your students—either in writing questions or putting the results to work in improving teaching, contact the CITL to arrange a consultation.