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Closing the loop: Are universities doing enough to act on student feedback from course evaluation surveys?

New report sponsored by Electric Paper highlights need for universities to 'close the loop' on course evaluation to support student experience.

New insight has shown that more universities are waking up to the importance of effective course evaluation to support the student experience, but that there is still a lot of work to be done to 'close the loop' and ensure data gathered has real impact.

The report Closing the loop: Are universities doing enough to act on student feedback from course evaluation surveys? published by Electric Paper features insight from universities across the UK and internationally. It questioned how institutions were using data collected from student course evaluation surveys to affect change on the quality of the student experience and on teaching and learning.

In the interviews three levels of 'closing the loop' emerged; with university leadership, with individual lecturers and with students. It is feeding back results to students which universities are struggling most to crack.

Most universities expressed a desire to provide more detailed feedback to students on the results - and impact of - their course evaluation surveys. However, concerns arise around protecting the expert academic judgment of lecturers and identifying an effective mechanism through which to communicate with students.

Response rates also remain a significant challenge for universities with students not always sure that their feedback will be acted upon. At an individual institutional level universities are looking at how to foster greater engagement amongst students in the survey process, with providing more detailed feedback a key part of this.

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy, says in the report: "Doing this [communicating to students the actions that have taken place in response to their feedback] effectively is crucial for achieving both good response rates and goodwill, but the most direct methods (such as the ubiquitous 'you said, we did') tend to treat survey data as a set of student demands, rather than one part of an ongoing conversation between partners."

Universities on the whole are confident that they have the right mechanisms in place to effectively share data with senior management. Institutions are increasingly implementing evaluation surveys which combine 'standard' questions and 'module-specific' questions, enabling comparisons to be made across the institution whilst allowing flexibility for individual courses.

Attitudes towards the use of course evaluation results in individual lecturer performance management processes varied across the sector, however universities seem to be increasingly looking at this as one evidence base to contribute to the wider discussion about quality of teaching.

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