Student Course Experience Survey

Why is learner feedback important to teaching and learning?

Student course experience surveys (aka course evaluations) serve as one component of a multifaceted approach to teaching evaluation. Student course experience surveys are valuable as they provide a direct, confidential, systematic, and formalized means by which each student is able to provide feedback about the learning experience within a course. However, the academic literature also highlights the potential for bias in student course experience surveys on the basis of gender, race, class size, and other factors. Therefore, in evaluating teaching effectiveness, it’s important to consider a variety of evidence, including student course experience surveys, teaching dossiers, peer observation and feedback, testimonial letters, and other evidence.

Access the Student Course Experience Survey System directly with your Campus ID

How it works

All Brock academic units are welcome to connect their courses with Student Course Experience Surveys (while online courses are automatically connected), though it’s critical that requirements as described in the BUFA Collective Agreement, including Articles 16.03 (i) and 16.04 (i) describing the role of a Departmental or Centre Committee, are respected during participation. After working with academic units to understand expectations and pre-existing course evaluation practice, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation will work to import your academic unit’s course evaluation questions into the Student Course Experience Survey.

It is useful for each academic unit to establish a local ‘point person’, as this individual is then able to liaise with the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation to ensure that all forms which will appear on the Survey are current, to provide guidance around the process to instructors, and to make customizations to Survey forms should instructors be unable.

The timeline below describes the stages within one term of the Student Course Experience Survey system.

STAGE 0: Connect with CPI to discuss participation

When: Beginning of term

Please note: if your academic unit has previously used the Survey in some capacity, it may not be necessary to undertake this step unless the scope of your intended participation has changed.

All academic units are welcome to contact the CPI to discuss participation in the Survey, and doing so early as possible within a term is advantageous.

Recommended Actions

STAGE 1: Welcome to Instructors and optional Survey customization

When: near middle of term

Around middle of term, participating course instructors are contacted via Brock email and provided with information about optional next steps.

Recommended Actions

STAGE 2: Students submit feedback

When: end of term

The Survey will automatically be released to students via an invitation with steps to follow and survey link to their Brock email. A Survey will normally become available to students one week before the official end of their course and will remain open for two weeks unless modified by the course instructor. Students that do not respond to the Course Experience Survey will be reminded via their Brock email.

Recommended Actions

STAGE 3: Instructors access feedback

When: end of term & after deadline for submission of final grades

Reports based on anonymized Survey results for a course will be generated and confidentially shared with course instructors. Instructors will receive notification by Brock email, and are able to download results as a PDF or CSV document and choose to retain or share.

Recommended Actions

FAQs about stages and steps

You are welcome to contact the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation for assistance with the Student Course Experience Survey.

Survey flow diagramThe Survey will normally consist of 3 components:

Brock University Global Questions: at the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Teaching Evaluation at the April 2, 2019 meeting of Senate, the following questions have been included on all course Surveys:

  1. I found the course engaging. (Likert rating)
  2. The course deepened my understanding of the subject
    matter. (Likert rating)
  3. The instructor fostered a respectful learning environment.
    (Likert rating)
  4. I had a positive experience in this course. (Likert rating)
  5. What aspects of the course did you find most engaging?
    (open-ended)
  6. What would enhance your learning experience in this
    course? (open-ended)

Questions from your Academic Unit: the same questions that appear within the form that your department has distributed for course evaluation purposes previous to participating in the Student Course Experience Survey.

Personalized Questions: the course Instructor is provided with an opportunity to include up to 5 likert-style or open-response questions.

Students will be contacted directly through their Brock emails when the Survey for your course becomes active. A link will be included in the message that provides a direct connection to the Survey. Students may complete the form in stages if that’s their preference, as the form will automatically submit when the closing date arrives.

Consider these strategies to enhance student engagement with the Survey:

  • If applicable, take 5 minutes in one of your synchronous class sessions to discuss the Survey with students and answer any questions they may have. Highlight that the survey is confidential and that you as course instructor will not be able to view results until decisions about final course grades have already been made.
  • In asynchronous courses, remind students via an announcement that the survey is upcoming.
  • If you’re using the Lessons tool within your Sakai site, add a checklist item that relates to the Survey in the final week or module of the course
  • Note that you’ll read these responses and use the feedback to improve the course when it’s delivered next
  • If you’ve chosen to connect your Sakai course with the Survey, indicate to students that they can choose to access the survey, when it becomes active, directly in Sakai.

Course Instructors will automatically gain first ownership of Survey results for all components of their courses (lectures, seminars, tutorials, etc.) and can choose to download and share results with seminar leaders.

Academic units that wish for seminar leaders to have direct access to results are welcome to communicate with CPI early in a term to establish point people to connect seminar leaders with Surveys for their sections.

Yes. Each academic unit is welcome to use one Survey form for primary course components (often the lecture component) and a different Survey form for seminar, tutorial, or lab course components.

Note that the option to add up to 5 personalized questions to a Survey is an excellent opportunity to address a unique aspect of a course’s delivery.

Possibly not. Each academic unit is able to use one Survey form for all primary course components. If your courses are all identified as using the same subject or department code (“KINE” or “LING”, for example), only one departmental / centre Survey form is available.

It is certainly possible to use a different form for seminar, tutorial, or lab components of such courses.

Note that the option to add up to 5 personalized questions to a Survey is an excellent opportunity to address a unique aspect of a course’s delivery.

The Student Course Experience Survey System is only able to track results that it collects directly. Academic units which have made previous or concurrent use of paper-based course evaluation must use methods of results retention and distribution that are outside of the Survey system and are appropriate to the unit.

While noting that many academic units possess different retention expectations, it’s likely that contacting your administrative support would be a good point of first contact for retrieval of offline course evaluation results.

Courses delivered in an online format, whether by design or necessity, are automatically included in the Survey and will be enqueued within the system at the beginning of the term. Instructors are able to remove their courses from participation, but should inform their academic unit that such a measure has been taken.

The CPI has been actively communicating with academic units since the Spring 2020 term to better understand individual unit needs and to ensure that all forms are current and made available within the Survey system.

Student Course Experience Surveys & the current policy context

The online Student Course Experience Survey system has been available to Brock University academic units for several years and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of various course delivery methods and results expectations. The system and its processes are coordinated to align with the expectations as described in the BUFA Collective Agreement, in particular Articles 12.7 (d) and Articles 16.03 (i) / 16.04 (i).

Per the recommendations of the the Ad Hoc Committee on Teaching Evaluation, made formally to Senate on April 2, 2019, the term “student course experience survey” ought to be used in place of “teaching evaluation” and “course evaluation” in order to more directly denote the role that such surveys play in documenting the experience of students in a course. This refreshed terminology is applied throughout the Student Course Experience Survey system to fulfill this intention.

FAQs about policy implications

The Student Course Experience Survey system respects BUFA Collective Agreement Article 12.07 (d), which makes clear that “student course evaluations are not public documents and are the property of the instructor”. Results will only be available to BUFA course instructors for whom the Survey was undertaken unless an academic unit, after deliberating via a process consistent with BUFA Collective Agreement Articles 16.03 (i) or 16.04 (i), indicates otherwise.

Results created for courses delivered by CUPE course instructors will automatically be released in the same fashion, though reports can be made available to an academic unit’s administration upon request to the CPI.

Instructors can access results for their current and past courses upon visiting the Survey system.

Yes. Most literature indicates that response rates to final online-format course evaluations are normally lower than those of final paper-based evaluations, though the validity of the overall data will often the same.

Taking effective steps to engage students about participating in the Survey, either in course-based communications or other means, has been shown to increase response rates. Further to this, it’s crucial that students are informed that their constructive feedback on the delivery of your course is meaningfully considered as the course is developed term after term.

After deliberating via a process consistent with BUFA Collective Agreement Articles 16.03 (i) or 16.04 (i), academic units that wish to sample the Student Course Experience Survey are welcome to do so for up to one calendar year. During this time, all or some members of a department can choose to include their courses.

To increase manageability of the Survey process for all involved, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation asks that departments choose to broaden or discontinue usage after the trial period.

The Collective Agreement establishes in Articles 16.03 (i) and 16.04 (i) that modifications to evaluation instruments are determined by Departmental or Centre Committees. While the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation would be pleased to support and work with academic units during redevelopment of evaluation instruments, instructors that use the Survey are required to use their academic unit’s core form.

Note that the option to add up to 5 personalized questions to a Survey is an excellent opportunity to address a unique aspect of a course’s delivery.

The Collective Agreement establishes in Articles 16.03 (i) and 16.04 (i) that the format and procedure for evaluation are determined by Departmental or Centre Committees. Your academic unit must be engaged in your decision to participate in the Survey, though some flexibility can exist if:

  • your academic unit, through a process noted above, has decided to sample the Survey
  • your course uses an online format, in which case it will automatically be included for evaluation with the Survey

It is currently not possible for academic units offering courses taught by BUFA members to access departmental averages via the Survey system. BUFA Collective Agreement Articles 16.03 (i) and 16.04 (i) do not extend to modifications to methods of an academic unit’s course evaluation reporting, an implementation of which might include the reporting of results averages across courses or instructors.

This does not affect the ability of instructors to access results of Surveys of courses that an instructor personally offered.

It would be useful to inform your academic unit that you’re choosing to opt out of usage of the Survey, as departmental / centre policy or procedure implications could arise. Your academic unit will also be able to assist with administering an alternative means of surveying students.

Click here for steps to opting your course out of the Survey.