Thursday, 23 October 2008

Surveymonkey for Blackboard feedback

Yesterday I came across mention of surveymonkey as a way to get quick feedback to a question someone raised in a comment about a blog post. So I had a look at surveymonkey and thought I would try and use it to get some quick feedback about the way I have started using Blackboard tools in my part of the course.

First, some background. I teach in a 5 year medical course in the Cardiff, UK. I co-ordinate a course which is delivered to 2nd year (pre-clinical) students called the Family Case Study. Pairs of students are assigned a family to visit 3 times between October and March. Many of the families have young children, and some are older families (at least one member over 60). The focus of the visits and conversations with the family is meant to be health rather than illness. This is the first opportunity students will have to longitudinally visit a family and to experience moving from being a lay student to a student doctor. The students are based in another part of the campus so it is not easy for them to call into my office. So, over the past few years I have been trying to maximise the potential of Blackboard.

I started with the use of the discussion boards in 2005. I made a board to ask me questions about the project, and others where students could talk to each other about how to meet the learning outcomes. I took a course in e-moderating like this one, but I found that I was not going to be able to set up small groups as Gilly Salmon suggests. Instead all 300 students had access to the boards together. But in the main they did use them. In the first year there was no relationship between participation in the discussion forums and mark, but I made some changes and have to repeat the analysis for subsequent years.

This year I set up some wikis and asked students to use them to sign up for the age group of family that they would like to visit. 75% of them managed to do this. But I wasn't sure why the others hadn't although I knew that some had simply missed the deadline.

I then set up some other wikis to allow students to post the questions that they were planning to ask the families in the visits. These questions are essentially the products of the buzz groups that we used in their first tutorial. There are 16 different tutorial groups and 5 buzz groups in each one so we should have had nearly 80 contributors to the wikis. So far there has been contributions from 3 of the tutorial groups. But the contributions are good.

I also started a blog where I could give tips to students, send them interesting links and generally try and keep in contact with them.

So yesterday evening in about 20 minutes I drew up a 7 question survey through surveymonkey to get some feedback on the way I was trying to use Blackboard. You can have a look at the survey here.

By this morning I had 23 responses. Wow! So I learned that generally students found the wiki easy to use but some still weren't sure how to use it. Most said that they hadn't used the wiki for tutorial feedback yet because they hadn't had time, but interestingly nearly all those students accessed Facebook every day. They also suggested I made things a little more organised on Blackboard so I had a tidy-up. I then used my blog to tell them about the findings so far and let them know what I was doing to try and get things moving in a better direction.

It feels quite exciting to be able to get feedback from students so easily.


  1. It sounds like you are trying some interesting things - however just to let you know you can divide the 300ish students into small groups for the use of discussion boards in blackboard.

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting Rob!
    I knew that I didn't write clearly and your comment confirms it. I know that I could set up groups with tehir own discussion boards, but I wouldn't have the time to lead 20 groups through the kind of activities that Gilly Salmon suggests. Do you have experience of how smaller groups-unmoderated- actually work? Maybe I should be trying this approach.
    As it was students used the boards to ask their colleagues to share information- mainly for background to an essay they had to write as part of the assessment. So they might ask if anyone else was visiting a Welsh-speaking family, or a family where there had been a decision not to have antenatal screening for Down's syndrome. In that way it was good that all 300 had access to the same boards.
    The boards were therefore used mainly for information exchange with little evidence of knowlege construction. I think it would have to be a very motivated and sophisticated group to reach the higher levels of Salmon's model without actice moderation. My approach tended to be quite hands off. I made some suggestions, and clarifications but generally allowed the boards to be their space.
    Thanks again,
    Anne Marie


I am reintroducing word verification to cut back on spam posts. I'm sorry if you find it frustrating,