Choosing Course Evaluation Software:
Top 10 Things to Consider
1: Ease of Use
You’re probably looking to make your job easier and aren’t interested in difficult, complex software applications. If the course evaluation system is too cumbersome, you will not use it and your organization will lose its investment. Ultimately, you want software that can grow with your evaluation and other survey needs, but to get started look for these elements:
- WYSIWYG design interface
- Full drag-and-drop capabilities for questions and scales, notes, overviews, summaries, and other text
- A robust library of commonly-asked questions
- Easy installation
- Wizards to guide you through survey design and implementation
2: Question Formats
An evaluation or other survey’s goal is to gather information. Look for a course evaluation software application that allows you to ask a variety of questions with a variety of measuring options. Formats to consider are single response, multiple responses, write-in response, and rating (for example “on a scale of 1-5, please rate the following”). A good software application will let you create your own scales or pick from a library of pre-written (and customizable) questions.
3: Web Delivery Options
Look for robust web delivery options in your software application. If your organization has a web server you can use, make sure the software can run web evaluations on it (you may need to contact your IT group for help determining this). If you don’t have a web server, check to see if the software vendor can host web evaluations for you.
Good web delivery should be able to support at least some of the following:
- Data validation of write-in responses, “must-complete” questions, ranking scales, and other options that help ensure the respondents answer the survey properly.
- Save and Resume capabilities that allow respondents to save their responses and continue at a later time.
- Password entry options and e-mail invitations that limit who has access to the survey.
- The ability to display lengthy scales as drop-down lists.
- Branching or Skip and Hit patterns that allow your respondents to be directed to a new set of questions based on their response(s).
4: Distribution Options
Depending on age, location, ability, and economics, your evaluation participants may prefer to complete a survey in one format instead of another. For example, course evaluations for an entire college campus might best be distributed over the web using student email addresses as invitations, but surveys about campus services might be best done with scannable forms available at the point of service. Older or very young respondents may prefer a physical, printed form over a survey on the Internet.
If the data you receive needs to accurately reflect the feelings and opinions of your evaluation population, you should avoid skewing your data by forcing your participants into one response method. Look for course evaluation software that allows for different modes of delivery. Even if you are currently only conducting online evaluations, you may need to expand into to expand into other options like paper.
Ideally, the software you choose should allow you to distribute the same evaluation using multiple methods, and be able to collect responses from all methods into the same response database.
5: Automating the Data Collection
You should also consider your evaluation volume and need for data accuracy. If you have a large-volume paper evaluation or survey and would like to automate the data collection process, look for software that can design, print, and collect data from scannable forms. Using a high-volume, rapid image scanner can save immense amounts of time and money otherwise spent entering data by hand. A scannable evaluation or survey allows you to conduct the survey on paper forms and collect large volumes of data very quickly, with over 99% accuracy. If you need this option, look for software that has the scannable form design option built into the design tool.
Web evaluations or surveys are also a great way to automate your data collection process. A good software application will let you put your evaluation online and collect the responses automatically with data files stored safely on the web server.
Further, look for a tool that can connect to systems you’re already using. For example, if you manage courses through a learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard®, Desire2Learn®, or Moodle™, look for software that provides plugins to connect course evaluations and other surveys to the LMS.
6: Sampling Features
Due to cost and practicality, many organizations survey a sample of their respondent base. A sample provides a representative selection of respondents that should reflect the view of the entire audience. To ensure accuracy, look for software that includes random, stratified, systematic, and cluster sampling.
7: Respondent Lists
Your evaluation software should allow you to import a respondent list from your student information system (SIS) or other student database. This improves delivery, ensuring the right student receive the right surveys.
8: Tracking Respondents
In your survey, you may want to track who has and has not responded. A higher response rate means more reliable data. An effective evaluation software application should let you send reminders to non-responders to increase participation. Tracking these non-responders in the software application provides quick access for follow-up correspondence.
In addition to tracking who replied, you should also be able to limit replies to one response per respondent. This is especially important for online surveys because it prevents duplicate responses from skewing the data and giving you inaccurate results. Using passwords and cookies should be potential options for preventing multiple replies from a single user.
9: Reporting and Analysis Options
Designing and implementing a survey is important, but viewing the results is the fundamental reason you are conducting a survey. Choose software that allows you to analyze your data and provides user-driven views of the results without having to export the data to another tool. Most likely you do not know in advance exactly what you need for reporting and analysis options, so look for an application that delivers robust and functional reporting and analysis options, without requiring you to be a statistician.
10: Proven Customer Support, Training, and Other Professional Services
There are several course evaluation software options available but you should also consider the value of a trusted, reliable company as part of your decision. As easy as a product is to use, you may still need help and need to work with an established vendor to provide necessary assistance. You should also have access to online and on-site training and support so concerns can be resolved quickly using online help or through a readily available telephone staff. Truly full-service evaluation partners should also be able to offer form printing, mailshop services, scanning services, and survey consulting.
How Can Scantron Help?
Scantron has 40 years of experience in building solutions that allow companies to measure various areas of their institutions—instructor and course evaluations, student and staff satisfaction, campus services satisfaction, learning outcomes surveys, and more. We can provide all of the pieces of your program, using our flexible course evaluation and survey application: Class Climate.
To be successful, you must consider and manage the distinct aspects and phases of a survey or evaluation:
Scantron offers a range of customized Implementation Services to enhance and support your Class Climate implementation process, including dedicated experts with extensive experience in course evaluation management. These services will enable you to implement your system and begin processing your surveys quickly and efficiently for a more rapid return on investment. The Scantron implementation team works with you to create a manageable schedule customized to ensure your success in the evaluation process. Depending on your needs, consultations can be done onsite or via the phone or web.
- Initiate Surveys
Save time and money by dispatching online surveys via email or batch-printing the paper questionnaires for an entire department. Create and distribute personalized questionnaires automatically. For online surveys, invite participants via email, paper, or LMS integration (e.g., Desire2Learn®, Blackboard®, Moodle™, etc.).
- Capture and Feedback
Data collection is one of the most complex aspects of survey administration. Gathering responses from survey participants can appear daunting to even the most seasoned professionals. Participants may be responding by paper or web. All of this data has to be collected—quickly and accurately—into a common database for reporting and analysis. Scantron recognizes this challenge, and offers the tools necessary to make the data collection phase as straightforward and reliable as possible, while saving time and money otherwise spent on data entry personnel.
- Further Analysis
Evaluations are conducted for the response data. If you’re like most administrators, you inevitably want to look at data from several angles. Being able to filter the data, then display it in a variety of clear and informative reports allows for more thorough analysis. Scantron understands that the more quickly you can put reports in the hands of an institution’s influencers and decision makers, the more quickly change can be effected.
- Quality Management
A Quality Management dashboard shows quality indicators as graphs or indexes as well as target values on scaled questions. Browse results and identify quality problems by comparing received responses to outside, validated standards. Set quality thresholds to automatically receive alerts about poor performance via an emailed report. Class Climate also allows for benchmarking to measure against future evaluations.
With Scantron, you can choose exactly the package of software, hardware, services, and forms to give you a total survey solution. We provide you with powerful functionality, depth, and breadth—notable attributes in the survey industry.
Contact us today to find out how the power of Scantron Class Climate can help!
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