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Informal Check-ins - Suggested Methods

Informal Check-ins - Suggested Methods

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At Programme Level

Setting up a Canvas Community or Teams to communicate with an entire student cohort can help you to build a learning community. This virtual space can be used during the academic year to regularly check in with a student cohort and get feedback on how students are getting on.

At Module Level

The following suggestions include virtual as well as present-in-person approaches to check in with students and get a view of how are are doing.

In-class questionnaire 

  • This is delivered using Ombea in lectures/seminars/tutorials (Download Resource)
  • The most straighforward way of conducting this is to include questions in lecture slides and collect responses using Ombea. A set of Ombea slides containing basic mid-module evaluation questions has been created for convenience (Download ResourceUser Guide)
  • Alternative methods of delivery may also include using Facebook polling capability or comments section, other online survey tools such as Surveymonkey or paper handouts.
Suggested Questions:
  • What is your overall rating of this module? (5 point multiple choice – Very Good to Very Poor)
  • What are the best features of this module? (free text answer)
  • How could this module be improved? (free text answer)
  • What could be done to enhance student engagement? (free text answer)
Ombea can also be used within online synchronous sessions. Attendees might just need a bit longer to respond to take into account any time delay due to internet connections.
In a virtual setting, Form builder could be used to ask students the types of questions suggested above, and get pseudo-anonymous or non-anonymous feedback from students (depending on what fields are added to the form). If embedded into Canvas, it is suggested to use MS Forms. Links to additional information is available on the NUIS website.

Start, Stop, Continue feedback 

This is delivered in similar style to mid-semester questionnaires (Download Resource)
The purpose of this is to get a snap shot from students to attempt to determine what things students would like to see brought into the module, what things should be removed or changed and what things are being well received. This can be done virtually via a form or Zoom poll, or in a present-in-person classroom setting.

Canvas discussion boards and quizzes 

These can be used within the module to get a sense of how your students are doing.

Zoom 

The Zoom chat allows students to ask questions (privately to the tutor, or viewed by the group), and Zoom polls can be introduced (these can be anonymous or not). 

Student focus groups

Using similar style questions, a small focus group of students can be selected from the cohort and given the opportunity to feedback. Selection of students should be conducted on a voluntary basis. These students should be encouraged to seek out the thoughts and experiences from other members of the cohort prior to attending the focus group. Students should be asked to sign-up to avoid having an over-subscription of volunteers. It is suggested that a focus group of this style should comprise between 6-10 students. Additionally, it is suggested that Module Leaders ‘pair up’ with other leaders to deliver cross-module evaluation to allow for emphasised impartiality and anonymity for students. Staff are encouraged to seek informed consent from students participating in focus groups using a consent form.

  • Statements may be used to focus students feedback in areas of concern:
    • What are the best features of this module?
    • How could this module be improved?

(Download Resource, Example Consent Form)

Focus groups can be organised virtually via Zoom or Teams (both with option for breakout rooms).

Tutorial/seminar group session feedback.

Similar in style to focus groups, tutorials and seminars (either present-in-person, or online) can be used as an opportunity to engage students in providing their opinion. This can be administered by student demonstrators within sessions and fed back to module leaders. This allows for a degree on anonymity in student feedback. Small group discussions can be used to allow effective feedback and control more vocal students. Here, too, this can be organised via Zoom or Teams.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages to each method are detailed in Table 1 to allow selection of appropriate methods suitable to individual modules.

Table 1. A summary of some of the advantages and disadvantages of mechanisms used to gather student feedback
MechanismAdvantagesDisadvantages
In-class questionnaires
  • Inclusive (assuming a census and a good response rate)
  • Can provide quantitative and qualitative information
  • Depending on the degree of standardisation, can provide comparisons and trends
  • Does not require a great deal of time commitment from individual students
  • Frequency and number may induce questionnaire fatigue if taking multiple modules
  • Response rates may be low if using online methods
  • Time spent on analysis
  • Students may not get information on results and any actions taken
  • Actions may not be taken
Stop, Start, Continue, feedback
  • Inclusive (assuming a census and a good response rate)
  • Can provide quality qualitative information
  • Does not require a great of time deal  of time commitment from individual students
  • Frequency and number may induce questionnaire fatigue if taking multiple modules
  • May be costly in terms of time spent on analysis
  • Students may not get information on results and any actions taken
  • Actions may not be taken
Focus groups
& tutorials
  • Useful for engaging students in dialogue and highlighting issues of concern
  • Can provide a rich source of information
  • Good opportunities for dialogue and testing out ideas
  • Enables exploration of an issue(s) in depth
  • Facilitator can be neutral
  • Useful for more personal exchanges of views on the student’s experience
  • Can find out immediately how things are going
  • (Some) problems can be dealt with immediately
  • May be resource intensive (in terms of student/staff time, analysis and interpretation of results)
  • The student group may not be representative of the student population
  • May be intimidating for some students
  • Vocal students may dominate discussion
  • Compromises student anonymity and confidentiality
  • Requires specialist input to secure
  • effective facilitation and discussion
  • Can be anecdotal – does not provide hard data

Adapted from Advantages and Disadvantages identified by HEA in “Collecting and using student feedback - a guide to good practice