Course Evaluations – Key 7

During a summer full of conferences, workshops, classes (both on-line and on-site), and numerous online discussion groups, lots of questions have been raised about how to structure course evaluation forms? While there are many good evaluation models available, here are the basic fundamentals that have worked well for the organizations where I have worked. This is part of Key 7 – Evaluations.

First, keep your course evaluations as simple as possible. I like to build a course evaluation using a 1 - 4 point scale. This forces participants to make a choice, to select above or below average. I have used the 1 – 3 and 1 -5 point scales but it allows the borderline evaluators to just be neutral by choosing the middle number. Neutrality isn’t all bad but when you are looking for what to improve, a neutral number doesn’t help much. And for those of you who debate whether using a 1 - 5 or 1 - 10 point scale, the only real difference that I have found are that participants will adjust their choice to reflect similar results of a slide between low, middle, or high scores.

There are 5 key areas where you need accurate feedback and information in order for you to know what, where or how you will want most to improve a course:
1. Content - is the course content useful to the participant?
2. Faculty’s Knowledge of the Subject – while this is often perception, did the faculty or instructor really knowledgeable about his/her subject?
3. Faculty’s Ability to Communicate – was faculty or instructor able to communicate their knowledge to the participants in the audience?
4. Quality of the training aids, handouts, etc. –were they applicable to the course?
5. Will the participant be able to apply the course to their job? Yes / No
Always allow the opportunity for open feedback from the participant as it can capture some amazing information occasionally. Questions about food, room temperature, arrangements, etc. should be left for the open general comments as generally the organization has little control over those issues and if it becomes an issue – it usually will appear in a general comments section. And yes, I am a believer that if you include food it can affect the results of the evaluations – poor food can lower the overall evaluations. Knowing that in advance – don’t provide bad food. And while the evaluators could be all over the scale in their final evaluations in the key areas providing you with detailed information about the course you will find it useful to ask a final general question about “How would you rate the overall program.”

If you have a way of collect the responses electronically, a tool like survey monkey - that could make your life much easier. What generally takes so much time related to surveys after the course is over is the summarizing the results. Anything you can do to minimize the staff time summarizing results is a plus.

My pet peeve is asking respondents questions that you know you are not going to use to improve the courses. Or worse still, requiring evaluation that goes straight to the storage file and then gets lost in a black hole. My final suggestion, keep your course evaluations as simple as possible.