With summer in full swing on most campuses, many of you are taking this opportunity to clean out your office, to work on that research idea you can’t quite get to during the academic year, or perhaps just taking some time to think and reconnect with your colleagues.
Summer is a great time to plan ahead for your survey administrations as well. Figuring out all the details, from when to register to how to customize those email invitations goes a long way to ensuring a smooth survey administration. Here are some lessons I have learned over the years, both from my own experience and from other IR and assessment professionals.
1) Make a checklist— A successful survey administration requires attention to detail. Now is the time to think about details like whether or not you need IRB approval; what incentives, if any, you will be using and when they need to be procured; whether or not to ask any additional questions, to what extent they need to be reviewed/updated/approved; when to draft text for invitations and reminders, etc. We have a general checklist and timeline posted online.
2) Be aware when choosing survey administration dates-Time your invitations, reminders and advertisements carefully. Summer is a great time to consult and cooperate with other departments and units on campus to avoid over-sampling your students.
3) Create/Review Additional Questions— If you will be adding additional local questions to the surveys, now is a great time to pull those out, review them for consistency across instruments, and ask relevant departments and units if there is anything to add, change, or delete. Asking others on campus about institutional items to add to the survey is also a great way to raise awareness of the survey administration and to garner support for the survey.
4) Incentives and Promotion—now is also a good time to think about incentives for survey participation. Do you want to use the same thing as last year? If so, can it be acquired early? If incentives were not really working the way you wanted, start thinking about different options. Each campus is different, but in general, smaller incentives (gift cards to the bookstore or campus dining) given to every student who participates work better than larger incentives given to only a few students (t-shirts to the first 50 respondents), or lotteries for big ticket prizes like iPads. If you have the chance, ask students what they would find most enticing.
5) IRB— If IRB approval is necessary on your campus, summer is the perfect time to prepare and submit the application. Even if they don’t meet over the summer, it’s one less thing on your list.
6) Build a base of support on campus– People are interested in the results if they know what to do with them. Don’t be afraid to talk with groups on campus about the work you do. Sit down with Faculty committees, IT, Student Affairs, and any relevant centers or programs (for example the Center for Teaching and Learning ) and share with them some of the items that might be relevant to the work that they do. I sometimes would bring paper copies of the instruments with me and ask them to circle items they thought were especially relevant to their work or that interested them. The benefit here was twofold: once they started talking about what items were interesting or relevant, they started thinking and engaging with the data, and were looking for me to return with the results for them, but I also learned what was interesting to them and could bring them additional information they might find useful.
7) This one comes up over and over again– Meet with Key Faculty and Staff—summer is a great time to talk with faculty and staff about the work that you do in a more informal and relaxed way. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk about projects and initiatives faculty and staff think are important enough to be spending their time on during the summer. Talk about how you can partner with them to provide the data resources and support they need.