Improving Response Rates

  • Pick a day during the SCS evaluation period with peak attendance.  For example, schedule it for a day when attendance is mandatory 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.

Note:  Occasionally we hear from faculty who assume that SCSs are meant to be administered at the last possible minute in a course. Although conceptually, it is logical to want to wait until the last minute so the whole course is taken into account, getting a good response rate is more important than collecting data on the last day of the course.  There will be essentially no difference in ratings obtained a couple of weeks before the class ends versus the last day of class, without any major changes to the course structure.  

  • Administer at the start of class instead of the end.   Set aside 20 minutes at the START of class.  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.  (Arrange with the student monitor to signal you when to step back into the room.)

Note:  Again, this may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, but consider that it will take the same amount of time for the class as a whole to respond either way,  Why not get your students to give the task their undivided attention?  You will get more thoughtful and extended feedback if you do AND your overall response rate likely will be higher since students will be less likely to leave without completing it at the start of class.

Online SCSs have different challenges when it comes to getting a reasonably representative sample of the class as a whole. Voluntary responses are not randomly sampled, which a higher response rate than a scientifically sampled survey for validity. It is critical in small classes to obtain maximum response. Getting the 'silent majority' of a class to weigh in is an important counter balance to the tendency of students with the most extreme positive or negative responses which will be more likely to respond.

Research on this particular problem shows that getting good response rates is possible, but takes a combination of tactics to pull off. The more tactics in play, the higher the response rates.  "Nagging" by email is one of the most powerful tactics and is already being done on your behalf. The OIA tracks who has responded and periodically sends email reminders to students who have not.

Here is a list of additional actions you can take to improve rates beyond the predicted 65%.


  • Tell students their opinions are valued & expected. In-class, reminder on the board, email, D2L News Tool (or other announcements) to invite participation. In each case, post the link and include SCS Evaluation Period Dates. In summer and inter-sessions it is critical to let the students know the window for participation is very short.

  • In-Person-Online SCS Hybrid- Set aside 15 min at the beginning of class during the SCS Evaluation period.
    Requirements:  All students bring one of the following; smartphone, laptop or tablet.  Wi-Fi Internet connection all students can utilize.

    • Explain to the class:
      • Their responses are important to you and after you leave the room, they can start the SCS.
      • Recommend to students who have completed, to review their responses, since you value their detailed feedback.
    • Appoint a student to notify you when to return.
    • Leave the room. (It is critical you & any TA are out of the room.)
    • Return to class. (Students who had not submitted evaluations will receive email reminders.)
  • Monitor your response rates periodically and take active steps to improve low response before the SCS ends. 

    • Log in to 

    • Use to drop-down menu to select 'View Currently or Recently Open SCSs'.  A list of your courses with the current response rate will appear. 

  • Remind students their responses are anonymous. The SCS System does track who has responded for email reminders. (We will remind non-responders by email of the closing time.)
  • Halfway through with less than 75% response rate? Email your students, tell them how important it is for the credibility of the results that every student participate.

Incentives: (Check with your department first.)