University of Leeds: From Automated to Paper Surveys

Laura Orozco
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Leeds, United Kingdom

The University of Leeds is moving from a paper-based survey system to an automated one that delivers the questions online. This innovative strategy has made it faster, easier, and cheaper to evaluate the quality of students’ learning experience. E-Learn spoke to one of the University’s eLearning Officers, Chris Slack, who explained details of this initiative.


Traditionally gathering student’s opinions was a slow and difficult process. Administrative staff oversaw printing off forms, distributing and collecting them from classes and collating results in a timely manner. Academics had to wait up to eight weeks to see reports from their modules and students were not always surveyed because forms were handed out in only one lesson.

Paper-based MCQ surveys (Multiple Choice Questions), to evaluate the quality of courses, were distributed across the institution at the end of every academic module, to evaluate students’ satisfaction with their education. This process was inconsistent, with every School or Faculty having their own approach; some were asking five questions, others ten questions, and so on. The methods were also different; from paper surveys to VLE tools (Virtual Learning Environment) and online applications. Consequently, it was difficult for the University to compare results across Schools and Faculties.

In light of this, the University evaluated several different online products to survey the student community. Although a number of third-party alternatives were investigated, the eLearning Team found that the Enterprise Surveys and Institutional Hierarchies tools, which were both included in the University’s Blackboard License at no extra cost, provided a scaleable, economic and robust solution.

“During the academic year 2015-2016, we started out with a pilot of the Enterprise Surveys tool to do module evaluations in our Business School. We created the survey and two response periods, one for Christmas and one for Easter. The pilot was very successful. For the first period we got 65% of students responding and in the second semester, we got 52%” said Chris Slack.


This year, due to the success of the pilot, the online method was extended to eight other Schools within the University and the outcome has been very positive.

For students, who are comfortable with technology, Enterprise Surveys is very easy to use; it is mobile responsive and allows them to fill out evaluations from their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. According to Slack, “We made a video collecting student’s feedback and they talk about the convenience of the tool. For example, if they miss classes or want to complete the surveys from home, they can. There is flexibility. They can type quicker and their answers are also more readable – there are no problems with reading their handwriting.”

For support and administrative staff, there have been noticeable time savings because they do not have to distribute and collect physical forms; now, they can give the results back in a few days with minimal effort. Academic staff still dedicate time in their classes to let students fill out the surveys, but the entire process is online and the tool automatically releases a report the very next day.

With tools already integrated into the Blackboard Learn License, the University of Leeds uses surveying innovation to save time and can focus on the quality of its courses, providing a high level of education to its students.


*Chris Slack – eLearning Officer, VLE Team, University of Leeds.

*Photos by: AFP Lindsey Parnaby

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