Administering Course Evaluations Using Google Forms

Accessing Google Forms template

The St. Olaf Course Evaluation is available at this link, as a template in Google Forms.  You may also access the template directly in Google Forms, by hovering your cursor over the large + in the bottom right corner and selecting the “choose template” icon.  In the Template Gallery, select the St. Olaf College tab, and under Basics you will see St. Olaf College Course Evaluation template. Open the form and edit as needed.

Benefits of electronic course evaluations

  • 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 can be automatically maintained, using the proper settings; 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 Institutional 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 following is an example of text that could be used:

    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, you can see the number of responses received in the form, without actually opening the responses.

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 for creating a Google Forms. Google Forms has a user-friendly interface and permits several different formats for questions.  IE&A recommends that instructors should be especially careful to:
    • Be sure to “Preview” the survey. Questions and format may look different to the user of the form than they do when creating them.  Confirm the result is as you intend.
    • Finalize your survey content before sending the survey. 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. Contact IT Helpdesk if you need assistance setting up your form or troubleshooting technical problems.