Administering Course Evaluations Using Google Forms

 Benefits of electronic course evaluations

Google Forms is used t0 administer online questionnaires.  All the sample course evaluation forms  available on paper are also available as templates in Google Forms.  Many faculty members prefer Google Forms evaluations to in-class paper evaluations for the following reasons:

  • It is not necessary to use class time to administer an evaluation electronically. Faculty can schedule the administration a little earlier in the semester, and students can complete the questionnaire on their own time.
  • Students generally provide more detailed and thoughtful responses to open-ended questions in electronic evaluations, partly because they can take more time in completing the form and partly because they are using a keyboard.
  • It is not necessary for faculty to summarize results by hand.  The “Responses” tab in Google Forms automatically summarizes the data; Google Forms also provides the option of opening results in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
  • Anonymity is automatically maintained; instructors cannot identify which students completed the questionnaire or recognize student handwriting.
  • Although participation rates for electronic evaluations may be lower than for in-class paper evaluations, the difference has become less significant over time, as students increasingly prefer electronic forms of communication.

Assuring voluntary and anonymous participation

The process of administering electronic course evaluations should preserve the voluntary nature of students’ participation, assure them that their responses are anonymous, and encourage candid responses.  The Office of Effectiveness and Assessment recommends the follow procedures:

  1. Make sure the content of the form you use supports voluntary and anonymous participation. If you are developing your own questionnaire, do not include any questions that would allow you to identify the responses of individual students.  Limit the number of demographic questions you ask so that you cannot identify students, even unintentionally.  Include instructions at the beginning of the form that explain the voluntary and anonymous nature of student participation in course evaluations.  The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment recommends the following text:

    The purpose of this course evaluation questionnaire is to provide feedback to your instructor concerning your learning experiences in this course.  Your candid and thoughtful responses will help your instructor improve his or her teaching, not only in this course but in other courses as well. Your participation is voluntary, and you will not be asked for your name or other identifying information.  Your instructor will not review the results until after course grades have been submitted.  Results are provided only to your instructor, although he or she may share them with others (such as the department chair) for purposes of professional development.  Thank you for your participation in the St. Olaf course evaluation program.

  2. Before the start date of the questionnaire, take a few minutes in class to let the students know that they will receive an email invitation to complete a course evaluation form, and explain the purpose of the form and the conditions of students’ participation. Include the following information (which should also be included on the form itself):
    • The purpose of course evaluations is to help instructors improve course content and teaching practices.
    • Students’ participation is voluntary; they are not required to complete the form.
    • Students’ responses are intended to be anonymous; you will not seek to identify the source of specific responses.
    • You will not review results until after you have submitted course grades.
    • Results are provided only to you.  You may share the results with others (such as the department chair) for purposes of professional development, but only you can give permission for others to see the results.
    • You appreciate their candid and thoughtful responses; their perspectives will help you determine what to continue and what to change in your teaching.
  3. Do not open the “Responses” tab for your questionnaire in Google Forms until after you have submitted course grades. If you want information about response rates prior to the close of the questionnaire in order to determine whether to send a reminder to your students, please contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment; IE&A staff will be happy to check response rates for you.

Tips for successful electronic course evaluations

  1. Allow plenty of time for students to complete the evaluation. If possible, schedule the evaluation to open two weeks prior to the last day of class.  The closer you get to finals time, the harder it will be to elicit a high participation rate.  Allow at least a week for students to complete the form, and send at least one reminder a few days after the form has opened.
  2. Follow the instructions on the Google Forms website exactly as they appear. Google Forms has a user-friendly interface and includes specific information about the format in which information should be entered to launch your form.  Small mistakes in entering the information can result in your form not being available as scheduled, which is frustrating for instructors and students alike.  IE&A recommends that instructors should be especially careful to:
    • Consult IT’s guide to academic mailing lists. If your course alias has expired for the term, please use the “fully qualified” course mailing list in the form “”
    • Finalize your survey content before the survey is “live”. Once the survey is sent to respondents, avoid making major edits to the questions. Small typographical errors can be fixed, but do not add, delete or change the meaning of a question. This will corrupt the results.
    • Download and save your results. The creator of the form will only be able to access results as long as he or she has a valid St. Olaf username. You can “download responses” or “create sheets” in Google Forms, but if the creator of the form leaves the college, the results will be lost from the system; they cannot be retrieved by IE&A staff or anyone else.
  3. Contact IT with questions or concerns. Google Forms is maintained by the Office of Information Technology. Contact IT (x3830) if you need assistance setting up your form or troubleshooting technical problems.