Where are we with the online Student Opinion of Teaching Surveys?

As most Pitt faculty know by now, the University of Pittsburgh moved to all online administration of Student Opinion of Teaching Surveys beginning Fall Term 2013. This move was made after a thorough review of research and practices of other peer institutions. Pitt piloted online administration in Fall 2012 and the results were consistent with what other institutions experienced — the most critical finding was that average mean scores do not vary statistically regardless of the number of responses.

Over five thousand surveys were conducted in fall 2013.  Students received emails with links to their surveys and could also access surveys via their CourseWeb landing page. Surveys are accessible on all mobile devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, making completion convenient and easy.

The Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching (OMET) embarked on an aggressive campaign to raise awareness about online surveys among faculty and students. Ads were placed in all University publications and on digital signs. A banner hung from the student union and reminder emails were sent to students. Announcements were posted on my.pitt.edu and CourseWeb. OMET staff was invited to attend department meetings to talk about the new process and offer tips to faculty.

The result? Overall response rates for the university were at 57%. This is higher than a typical rate of 47% that other universities reported during their transition period from paper to online. Of note was that the average response rate in the departments that OMET visited was 63%. Why? We believe that awareness among faculty and their efforts to communicate to the students the importance of Student Opinion of Teaching Surveys was a key ingredient in generating higher response rates. Asking students for their commitment to help improve the quality of classroom experiences and letting them know their opinion can make a difference can make a positive impact on student participation.

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