What is a good response rate?

Ideally, a 70% response rate provides reliable feedback from students. However, achieving a high response rate can be difficult. Nulty (2008) suggests for courses with less than 20 students a response rate of at least 58% and courses with 50 or more students a response rate of at least 35% can provide reliable feedback on the student experience.

Nulty, D. D. (2008). The adequacy of response rates to online and paper surveys: what can be done?. Assessment & evaluation in higher education, 33(3), 301-314.

What strategies can be used to improve response rate?

The most effective strategy is to provide 10-15 minutes of class time for students to complete the SCS. Pick a class day and ask students to bring a device (laptop, mobile) devices/laptops during class time (for face-to-face classes).

The OIA conducted a survey of the 271 instructors, who receive high response rates on their online TCEs, asking about strategies used to encourage student completion of their online TCEs. 105 instructors responded to the survey, conducted between 2/27/15 and 3/6/15. Here is a summary of the most common responses:

  • Telling students their opinions are anonymous, valued, and lead to course improvements
  • Verbal reminders (face-to-face classes)
  • Email reminders sent by the instructor in addition to those sent by the OIA
  • Posting the link to the SCS Tool Suite (url) on D2L course site
  • Bonus points (a negligible amount and given only if 80% or more of the class completes the SCS)


Improving Response Rates

Use Class Time

One of the best ways to increase response rates is to ask students to complete the course surveys during class time. Doing so signals that the instructor takes this process seriously.

Pick a day during the SCS open survey period with peak attendance.

Schedule the course surveys for a day when attendance is expected for an important instructional activity. Let students know which date you have chosen and remind them to bring their laptops, tablets or other mobile device so they can complete their SCSs.

Administer at the start of class instead of the end.

Set aside 20 minutes at the beginning of the class period. Announce the SCS and explain that you've allowed 15-20 minutes to complete the SCS because it is important that you hear from everyone.  Leave the room to show that you are not trying influence student responses, and arrange with the student monitor to signal you when to step back into the room.

Let students know you value the feedback they provide

During their academic career, students will understand the importance of feedback for their development and progress as learners. Because these SCSs are administered at the end of the course session, students may not know how the results of the surveys are used. Further, they may not directly see changes based on their responses. Letting students know you value their feedback and how you will use the information they provide to refine and adapt your teaching methods, will help them provide helpful information on their learning experience.


If you use a point-based grading scheme, you might consider including 1 or 2 points in the overall grading scheme from the start (include in your syllabus or official grading scheme as an assignment), or as bonus points (announced in the syllabus or near the end of term) if the response rate reaches your goal (for example, 85% or above). Although some students may not be motivated by this approach, pointing out that there are circumstances where even a point or two can make a difference may motivate a number of students across the spectrum of low to high anticipated course grades. Points have been effective in large undergraduate classes.

Graphic: ways to improve response rates