Surveys should be concise and simple to garner student feedback

Officials released a 113-question survey late last month gauging student input about two staples of student life: dining and housing.

The survey – expected to take about 20 minutes to complete – asked about students’ housing and dining experiences and preferences, where students typically eat on campus and why they choose to dine on GWorld. In addition to dining, officials asked students which residence halls and room layouts they preferred to live in and how much students would pay for different residence hall rooms.

The survey was in-depth and detailed, but officials missed two points – students do not want to spend 20 minutes answering questions, and some freshmen may not know enough about housing options and dining choices yet. Students are too busy to spend 20 minutes answering more than 100 questions, and asking freshmen about residence hall preferences is too soon. Officials need to recognize that complicated and time-consuming surveys may not garner many responses, especially if they want the most accurate responses.

Instead of one lengthy survey, officials could have distributed separate surveys on more specific topics. One survey could have been dedicated to dining and one to housing. Officials also could have spaced the surveys out over some time to ensure students have time to think through two questionnaires, one about dining and one about housing.

In the survey, officials presented students with images of different residence hall room layouts and asked students to rank their preferences. But the diagrams were difficult to view from a phone because they were placed at the top of a long list of questions, so respondents needed to scroll back up to the top to answer each question. The list of questions under the diagram asked students what residence hall styles and prices they preferred, requiring students to scroll left and right on a phone to find the letter corresponding to the residence hall style they preferred. Officials could have easily refined the survey to make it mobile friendly, which would have saved students time and frustration.

Freshmen may not even know about some of the residence halls students were asked to rank in the survey. First-year students are only two months into their first semester, and figuring out their roommates for next academic year may be more of a worry than knowing which upperclassman residence hall they want. Officials should have at least given freshmen more time to acclimate to school before asking which hall they see themselves living in.

Splitting up the survey by class would have also freed up some of the confusion from freshmen. Officials could have split the survey into sections by class and asked questions about the freshman and upperclassman living experiences in two separate areas. The split would allow freshmen to confidently answer questions about GW Housing knowing about different first-year halls.

The goal of the survey is to gather feedback, but complicated surveys will not garner a large sample of student voices. To obtain a representative number of student responses, the University should send surveys that are concise and straightforward. Officials could ensure the surveys are easier to fill out by dividing them by class and sending out questions on specific topics instead of several topics at once.

Students have opinions they want to share, but administrators cannot expect students to fill out a complicated and lengthy survey. Surveys must be easily navigable, brief and clear to get the best turnout of responses. If officials want to turn student feedback into change on campus, they should ensure students have the means to provide accurate responses.

Allyson Bonhaus, a freshman majoring in history, is an opinions writer.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.