Coventry University best practice highlighted in report on effective course evaluation

Tuesday 13 September 2011

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A senior academic from Coventry University has contributed to a new research report into the issues facing HE institutions in gaining and implementing student feedback on courses.

Professor Ian Marshall, the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), is quoted in the report, "Effective Course Evaluation - The Future for Quality and Standards in Higher Education", which was published on 1 September.

The report was commissioned by Electric Paper, which works with over 600 universities in the UK and worldwide to help them evaluate their courses via its automated paper and online survey management system EvaSys.

Interviews with 10 academics and student representative groups found, generally, that:

  • Many universities seeking feedback on courses and lecturers via surveys struggle to achieve a meaningful response from students.
  • Student representatives have indicated that students are not effectively engaged in the feedback process and, for some, providing feedback can even be intimidating.
  • Universities need to work harder at feeding back to students the actions they will be taking as a result of input provided for course and lecturer evaluation surveys.
  • End-of-module evaluation is a particular stumbling block in the provision of feedback to students - and feedback can be slow - but moving to mid-module evaluation can help to improve the process.
  • Ideally students want the opportunity to express their views on course improvements at a time that their feedback benefits them directly.
  • Universities need to embrace new technologies to improve turnaround time - but effective feedback can be gained via a combination of paper and online surveys.
  • Universities should establish a more consistent (centralised) approach to survey administration - including a standard set of survey questions - to enable effective benchmarking at course and institutional level.
  • In-class student involvement in survey administration can increase commitment as they are stakeholders in the process.


As a potential model of best practice, Professor Marshall said that Coventry University had managed to increase its response rates by using paper and moving to mid-module surveys.

Historically universities conduct end-of-course, or end-of-module surveys, but by the time the feedback has been analysed and results published the students have gone away. We moved to online surveys, but the response was dreadful, so last year we introduced mid-module surveys and went back to paper. The response was super, and we are now able to turn around feedback in two weeks maximum.



At Coventry University mid-module surveys are handed out in class by 120 senior student representatives who are interviewed and selected by the University's Students' Union, and Professor Marshall said that if a module was perceived to be underperforming "we will focus on those".

He added: "Students are more interested in outcomes - so it's important for universities to be very clear on what they are able to do, and equally be honest on what they are not able to."

For more information about Electric Paper Ltd, go to www.electricpaper.co.uk.