CIRP works with a broad range of institutions–small, large, private, public–but despite these differences, many schools share the same challenge–and that’s to get students to respond to surveys. Even schools that have good response rates, want better ones. With good participation, you can legitimize survey results, and increase your confidence that the results represent your target population. Keeping in mind that there is no one “right way” to increase student participation and that each campus should take into account their own campus culture in determining how to best reach their students, here are some strategies you can use to promote, encourage and incentivize student participation:
Utilize CIRP services
CIRP will help you personalize messages for your students that help emphasize the value of survey information for informing institutional practice and improving the student experience. Efforts at the institutional level can be used to complement and reinforce these messages and enhance the likelihood that students will participate.
There are two camps in terms of incentives: those who give everyone a token for participating and those who enter respondents in a drawing for larger prizes. If you are considering offering smaller incentives (e.g. gift cards to the bookstore, vouchers for food, t-shirts, or services) to everyone that responds to the survey, these tend to work best if the incentive is received in advance. You can include a voucher with the survey that can be cashed in after completing the survey, or for a web administration, embed a link into the email inviting them to participate. The details of offering incentives can be difficult to coordinate, and require a bit of advance planning.
Those institutions that enter respondents into a drawing for larger prizes (e.g. iPads, parking passes, tickets to campus events) should also make available to students the odds of winning and the value of the prizes.
There are tried and true suggestions for promoting surveys on campus, some of which I have talked about before) I’d like to urge you to consider some new ideas:
Try using social media. A Facebook page or twitter account can be a quick way to explain why the survey is important, and how it is used to promote institutional change during administration. After results are in, the purpose can change to sharing information and results of the survey. This does double duty in that it shows respondents that their voice mattered and someone looked at the results, it also can spark conversation on campus about interesting findings. The second idea is even simpler.
Update your webpage. Consider posting an announcement on your webpage about survey administration, explaining why the survey is important, and how it has been used. If possible, link to examples of use already present on your page. Don’t overlook course management systems. Ask to post an announcement in Blackboard, Moodle, or whatever system your campus is using.
Be available. The best promotional tool for participating in the surveys is you and your staff. You work with the data, and you understand how it will be used. Don’t be afraid to be an advocate with students, faculty, and staff for participating in the surveys. Take the time to answer their questions, to reassure them of the confidentiality of their responses, of the voluntary nature of their participation, and of the value survey data has in helping the institution make better decisions that support a positive experience for all students. Set up tables in the student center, dining hall, or anywhere students congregate to provide survey information.
There are, of course, ethical considerations to consider when undertaking any survey. Our Administration Guidelines go into greater detail, but it’s important to note that participation in CIRP surveys must be voluntary. Any efforts you make to increase response rates should not make students feel like they will be penalized for not participating, and, of course, a student’s decisions not to participate should be respected.