Thanks to Madeleine Gonin for collaborating on this blog post.
If you joined us this summer in reading about teaching online, you know that students need opportunities to communicate with you and their peers. In particular, it’s important to get feedback from your students about their experience in your course. An easy way to gather student feedback is through the use of polls or short surveys. This blog post shares survey questions and data sources you can use before and during the first few weeks of classes to ensure that you have a smooth start to your semester.
Before the Semester Starts
Get to know your students
There are a variety of ways to get to know your students as you design your course and plan your instruction for the fall. For specific information about the students enrolled in your course, you can view aggregate data about their majors, academic backgrounds, class standing and more in Canvas. Use the Reports and Dashboards and the Student Profile Report tools to tailor your course to the students who will be taking it.
Additionally, you may be interested in how IUB students and faculty responded to the pivot to remote teaching last spring. That information can be found in the Going Remote report of a survey of IUB students and faculty after the spring semester ended.
Check on students’ access to technology and other resources
As you get to know your students, it is important to understand the context in which their learning takes place, including their access to technology. This is especially true for asynchronous courses, and will be relevant for all courses when instruction becomes exclusively online later in the fall semester. (This report from 2018 by Dr. Jessica Calarco, IUB Sociology, based on research conducted at IUB, identifies the “new digital divide” among college students and describes how it affects students’ success.)
Below are questions you can use to survey your students about their access to technologies and related resources for academic success. You can use the Canvas Quizzes tool or Qualtrics to survey your students. In your survey, give an introduction that explains your class structure, and related expectations for how students will connect to your course: will you be meeting synchronously, do you want them to be able to enable their audio and/or video etc. (Feel free to edit or adapt these questions for your particular context. Suggested answer options for each question are provided.)
- Do you have access to any of the following devices that you can use for/during class?
Check all that apply: Desktop; Laptop; Tablet; Tablet with stylus; Cell phone. Be sure to ask about other equipment and resource needs for your class.
- Do you have access to reliable high-speed internet that will enable you to…
Ask whether students can: Listen to live Zoom sessions; Enable your audio and/or video to answer questions out loud; Enable your video to present to the class and/or meet in small groups; Listen to recorded lectures (include maximum length of video so that students know whether they can download these easily); Upload media-based assignments, etc?
- Do you have access to a quiet space that you can use during our synchronous (live) class sessions and/or to work on this course?
Yes; No; Sometimes; Other, please explain.
- When will you have access to a device for class?
Whenever I need it; I share a device with others; Other, please explain
- What time zone are you in? Will you be able to regularly attend our synchronous sessions in Zoom?
- Do you have essential obligations or constraints that may interfere with your participation in this course?
Yes, I have a job; Yes, I have family responsibilities; I have obligations, but do not anticipate them interfering with my participation in this course; No; Other, please explain
- Do you have any other concerns for the Fall 2020 semester that you would like me to be aware of? (Please share, if you’re comfortable doing so, and be aware that early communication is key. If I am unaware of what you are experiencing, I may not be able to accommodate you effectively or empathetically.)
Based on student answers, you might want to think of ways to provide flexibility in course requirements and assignment due dates. If you did not set this up to be an anonymous survey, you can reach out to individual students to discuss accommodations that will enable them to successfully complete your course.
There are a few surveys already constructed that you can import into your Canvas course from the Canvas Commons. Follow these instructions to view and download these pre-constructed surveys (that you can still adjust to your context):
- Log into IU Canvas
- Click on the Commons link in the left menu bar
- Click on the Filter button, and then under “Shared with,” select Indiana University
- Search for “survey” and change the search option to “Latest”
Near the top of the results, you will see:
- Start of Semester Survey
- IU Student Technology Survey
Early in the Semester
It’s a good idea to check in on your students early in the semester to see how the course is going for them, and to find out which resources and teaching strategies are most useful for them. This survey can be short, and can be administered after two or three weeks of instruction, after students have had a chance to experience the course and settle into a routine. If you administer this kind of survey, after you compile the results it’s important to “close the loop” by sharing the results (and your responses) with students.
Below are several kinds of questions for an early-semester survey.
- Start – Stop – Keep:
To improve your learning, what should I START doing? What should I STOP doing? What should I KEEP doing?
- Helping and Hindering:
Name some things your instructor does that HELP you learn; Name some things your instructor does that HINDER your learning; Name some things YOU AS A STUDENT could do or have done that have helped your learning in this course.
- Resource check:
How helpful have each of the following course resources been in supporting your learning?
[For each item, use a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 = Not helpful at all, and 5 = Extremely helpful: Textbook; Recorded lecture videos; Online homework system; Collaborative notes; Study guides; Group work; Synchronous small group discussions; Online discussions in Canvas; Office Hours; Other, please specify]
Remember, if you solicit feedback from your student, it’s important to share the aggregated responses with the class and discuss how you’ll respond to the feedback. This “closing the loop” will show your students that you’re listening and responding to their feedback.
To learn more about teaching for equity and with empathy, join us for Dr. Calarco’s webinar on Monday, August 17, 2:30-3:30pm. Register at https://go.iu.edu/31OM.