Submitted by Ashlee Sawyer
Because I’m a 214 TA and there appear to be few things that undergraduates despise more than statistics, I have been trying to find ways to shake things up so that we have new (and hopefully interesting) options and things are easier and quicker for me. When I TA’ed over the summer, the professor I worked with used Blackboard to create a survey that gave students a chance to provide feedback on the class that day, and provided her with student attendance for the day. I wanted to implement this, because it was a great way to gain insight into what the students were having trouble with, and because it offers frequent evaluations for you to work from. However, in Blackboard you have to open each question separately to view all of the student responses for that item, and it was a bit tedious, and I was instructed to clear the responses each day so that the same feedback survey could be used each day – So if I wanted to remember what had been shared, I had to take notes.
With Google forms, I’ve created a different survey for each week and I have it set up to go into the same Google Excel Sheet, but under a different tab each time. Here is the survey that I created, if you’d like to see: 214 Feedback Survey . It’s very simple and takes just a few minutes for students to fill out. Alternatively, you could use the same survey link each week and have all of the responses filter in to one excel sheet – Google forms provides you with a timestamp for each response, so you’re still able to maintain order that way. You can also sort responses by email, if you collect that information, and you could group each individual’s responses together to track their feedback or progress. I personally prefer to have my responses organized by topic (e.g., Independent t test vs two way ANOVA) so that I can see what common problems are with the material and new ways of teaching that specific lab, but you can definitely change it up to suit your needs.
I also use the feedback survey to offer individual help, which students seem to really enjoy. So I tell them that if they provide a specific question in response to the ‘what are you still struggling with’ item, then I can send them an email with an answer. Ideally, I’d love for them to ask me their questions during the lab, and I still actively encourage that, but some people just don’t feel comfortable doing so. I also think that by taking time to respond to their question, they’re able to see that we care about their success and we want them to understand the material and do well.
I also created a quiz with review material for their first exam, which you can view here: Review Quiz. The idea behind this was that we wanted to be able to see what material they were doing well with and what they were struggling with before we conducted the lab review session – we wanted to make sure we were focused on important material. For the most part, students seemed to enjoy it, and it was very simple for me to go through and evaluate their responses in lab before we began review material. The only downfall of this was that I didn’t see a way to publish the correct answers for them after they took the quiz (I originally hadn’t anticipated them wanting the answers, as I had designed it to help me guide the review, but I was very mistaken). However, I just created an answer key for them and left the link live and the answers posted below it so that they could use it as a study tool if they wanted to.
Overall, I think that the Google Forms are great and extremely user-friendly. Creating the quizzes and surveys are incredibly easy, and you’re able to link your responses to a new Google Excel Sheet, or link the responses to an existing sheet (Go to Responses –> Choose Response Destination –> New Sheet in an Existing Spreadsheet –> and then you can choose the sheet you want from your google drive). It’s also a great tool for things like sign up sheets for student projects (like we filled out for this course), and could possibly be used as warm-up quizzes/ attendance quizzes for course content at the beginning of labs for easier reviewing by TAs.
The only downfalls that I’ve experienced so far are (1) you cannot duplicate whole documents, just questions within those documents, and (2) I haven’t seen a way to release correct answers to the forms that students fill in [this does NOT mean that the option doesn’t exist – just that I haven’t found it] and (3) some students have trouble accessing the survey if you have the option of requiring them to login via VCU – I’ve been told that it’s an @mymail.vcu.edu versus @vcu.edu issue with the accounts; however, we removed that option for the quiz and everyone was able to access. Just remember that if you do make it open-access and need to know who submitted which response, you should create an item that instructs them to enter their name and/or email address, otherwise their responses will be anonymous.
As someone who despises technology and has trouble with even the most basic of tasks requiring the use of technology, Google Forms have been amazing. They’re very simple to use, they look very organized [a student even commented that the quiz looked very well-made], and managing the responses is so simple. CJ and I even share our forms and the response Excel Sheets and we haven’t had trouble with staying organized.