The Pros and Cons of Using Surveys in eLearning Eóghan Quigley Published on October 20, 2016 Assessing the value of eLearning is more important than ever. The question of how useful eLearning surveys can be for evaluation has been up for debate over the past few years. Surveys are still a staple for many eLearning professionals who believe they offer a simple method for soliciting feedback about course effectiveness. Others claim that using surveys to assess eLearning is over and that there are more objective ways to evaluate learning outcomes. At LearnUpon, we take every opportunity to listen to our customers. We've used surveys to assess how our Learning Management System and customer support services help them to achieve their goals for years. But we've also made mistakes along the way - by asking the wrong questions or making it too difficult to respond. After recently working to improve the quality of our surveys, here are some ideas on how using eLearning surveys. Pros Of Using eLearning Surveys To Assess Course Effectiveness Despite recent criticism, surveys can still be a useful tool for eLearning evaluation: 1. Evaluation Matters It's important to consider the limitations of post-course surveys and work to make them effective. But evaluation is important and some process for analyzing feedback is better than none. Too many teams and departments still deliver training without evaluating outcomes. Don't let doubt about the general value of eLearning surveys stop you from collecting feedback. 2. Reason To Reach Out A post-course survey gives you a reason to connect with learners after instruction and assessment are complete. If you don't provide a mechanism for learners to submit feedback, don't expect to hear from them. Failing to solicit feedback is risky. Learners may have major or minor issues with the content or delivery of a course that you're completely unaware of. Even if the volume or quality of data returned by a survey isn't great, it can alert you to issues you should address. 3. Simple To Use Post-course surveys require thought and planning. But as a research method, they're not difficult to run. With free and easy tools, like SurveyMonkey and Google Docs, you can get started quickly. Both tools make the delivery and analysis of eLearning surveys simple for course administrators and learners. Without a serious budget or resources, you can create a simple process for analyzing the effectiveness of your work. Cons Of Using eLearning Surveys To Assess Course Effectiveness Despite these strengths, it's important to be aware of the limitations of post-course surveys. Being sensitive to these weaknesses will prevent you from overstating the role surveys can play in evaluating eLearning: 1. Not Quantitative eLearning Surveys are most effective when they're used for the right reasons. While they're ideal for analyzing subjective opinions and feelings, there are many things they can't measure. If you want to assess the ROI of a training program or the impact of learning on job performance, a post-course survey won't be enough. 2. Relies On Learners The quality of a survey's results depends on two things: The quality of questions asked and the volume and quality of replies submitted. While you can improve the former, the latter is mostly beyond your control. To give your survey the greatest chance of success, keep the number of questions to a minimum and make it simple for learners to respond. 3. Questionable Correlations The subjective nature of post-course surveys sometimes generates puzzling results. The ratings learners award to instructors or course content aren't always consistent with more quantitative kinds of data like test scores. Conflicting results can make the value and results of eLearning surveys difficult to frame. Being clear about how you will use and interpret feedback is the best way to minimize confusion. How We Improved Surveys for eLearning The most important thing to remember is that data returned by surveys is qualitative. At LearnUpon, surveys are just one research tool we use. We don't rely on them to get a full picture of the effectiveness of our Learning Management System or customer support and customer success services. These 3 points have helped us to improve the usefulness of surveys we conduct: 1. Choose Impactful Questions Select questions that are most likely to return insights you can action. Avoid leading or loaded questions. Keep the number of questions asked low. In many cases, three strong questions will be enough to gather the information that's most valuable for you. 2. Choose Incentives Wisely You should offer learners some kind of incentive for completing your survey. Ideally that should relate to course objectives and learners' professional development. Think carefully before offering an incentive of significant material value in case it skews responses and results. 3. Understand What Isn't Measured Before you send a survey, have a clear sense of its role in eLearning evaluation. Ideally, a survey will be just one of a range of tools you use to assess learners' sense of effectiveness. At LearnUpon, survey insights are just one data point and the team is clear about how to use and respond to results.