There are just over seven weeks to go before we close the door on data collection for this pilot version of the Digital Student Experience Tracker.
There have been a few questions about this deadline, so I’ll try to answer them here. First, though, it’s important to say that seven weeks is a long time! It is absolutely not too late to launch the Tracker and collect a useful body of data from your learners. We only recommend a window of about two weeks for the survey anyway – unless you have a strategy for reviving interest, for example around a specific initiative or event. So even if you are further behind than you hoped to be, there is still plenty of time to hit that deadline.
Why do we need a deadline at all? Although it’s hard sometimes to remember, this is actually a pilot process. We are learning about the Tracker, how best to run it, how best to support it, and what value it can be. So we need a deadline for closing the pilot, analysing the data, and asking you how it has gone. We already have lots of ideas for improvements, for example around greater flexibility in the questions asked, better integration with other data sources and so on. Unless we take time to really consider the evidence, we won’t be able to make the changes you want and (hopefully!) launch an improved Tracker service later in the year.
We are very grateful to everyone who has been part of the process. Even if you find that you run out of time in the pilot phase, we hope that the thinking and planning has been useful – for example has helped you to identify champions and to raise awareness. Perhaps you are in a better place to run the Tracker in the future, or perhaps you have decided that it’s not for you. We will still want to ask you about your experience – as far as we are concerned, it is all learning.
Why did we choose this particular time? The November to March window was the most popular with our first pilot phase institutions when we polled them (there is a FAQ about timing which explains this). It has proved not to be ideal with our Australian colleagues due to their having a different academic year. And if you planned to include final year HE students in your population – and missed earlier opportunities to launch the survey – then these last 7 weeks are not ideal because of the NSS. But people are finding ways around these problems. Running right up to the deadline, targetting students that are not involved in other surveys, using selective rather than random sampling – these are all options that you have.
How about strategies for encouraging more participants to complete the Tracker in the time available? Here are some fantastic posters from Vikki and the team at Epping Forest College. They’re using QR codes so learners can go straight to the survey, and they’ve also been using differential communications to reach different groups of learners – helping them to achieve over 200 responses in just a few days.
- Make sure you are reaching learners through different channels – posters, flyers, email, social media, texts, via the student desktop or VLE or app.
- Tell learners about something specific you are already doing to improve their digital experience, or (if you are starting to collect data) something specific you have already found out. This encourages them to focus on positive outcomes and to think that their opinion will really make a difference.
- Emphasise that the survey is quick and easy to complete.
- Generate some real-world activity e.g. with a launch event, or focus on live completions, with helpers taking the survey out into student areas on mobile devices.
- Ask learners to help you design communications about the Tracker, e.g. short video, infographic.
- Ask sympathetic staff to allow learners to complete the survey live at the end of taught sessions.
- Emphasise the benefits to students of an enhanced digital environment and employability skills.
Finally, I recently ran a Q and A session for our Australia/New Zealand pilot sites. I’ve uploaded the slides here here in case they are of interest (they may be a bit slow to load).