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Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates

Students provide feedback on our teaching in end-of-semester evaluations of instruction, which can help you inform changes for subsequent semesters of teaching. Online course evaluations typically elicit a lower response rate than paper-based course evaluations. However, there are several strategies you could use to increase response rates for your courses.


row of students using computers

Strategies for Increasing Response Rates for Online End-of-Course Evaluations

In this study, Chapman and Joines (2017) discuss evaluation motivation strategies at an institution, finding that three strategies proved most effective in increasing response rates: discussing the importance of evaluations in class, creating a climate of mutual respect, and explaining how student evaluation feedback will be used to modify the course.

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The Effect of Incentives and Other Instructor-driven Strategies to Increase Online Student Evaluation Response Rates

This study by Goodman, Anson, and Belcheir (2015) analyzed tactics that faculty employ to raise response rates for online course evaluations. While incentives were found to be most effective, non-point incentives worked as well as point-based ones. Other methods, including reminders, personal emails, and explaining how the feedback would be used, were also found to be effective.

woman looking at phone with smiley face indicators for ratings

How Can Instructors Encourage Students to Complete Course Evaluations and Provide Informative Responses?

The Berkley Center for Teaching and Learning offers strategies for increasing student response rates for end-of-semester evaluations, including reserving class time to conduct online evaluations, monitoring the response rate and encouraging completion, explaining the purpose of evaluations, making the evaluation a no-points assignment, and offering incentives for completing evaluations.

Recommended Strategies

Choose one of the following strategies to implement

Explain to Students the Importance of Course Evaluations

Students may not realize why they should complete course evaluations. Discuss with students the importance of student evaluations of teaching, including their purpose, how you will use the information to improve your teaching, and who will benefit from the feedback your students submit.

Reserve In-class Time for Evaluations

Part of the reason why paper evaluation response rates are higher may be due to the need to reserve in-class time to administer them. Try administering your online course evaluations during class time to increase the number of student responses.

Provide a Non-point-based Incentive

NIU’s policy on student evaluation of instruction prohibits incentives that would allow students to improve their grades by responding, such as providing extra credit, but you can employ alternative incentives to encourage students to complete the evaluation. These may be individual or collective (e.g., everyone receives the incentive if the overall response rates exceeds a certain percentage). Be creative with what is appropriate for your discipline and is motivating for your students, like an additional review session, extending a deadline, or allowing a note card on the final exam.

Selected Additional Resources

Next Steps

Please review the resources and select at least one of the recommended strategies to implement. Make a note to yourself about the strategy you used and the impact that it had.

In two weeks, we will share resources on finishing the semester on a high note. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to let us know at citl@niu.edu.

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