Response Rates

The response rate is calculated based on the number of students taking the survey among the students enrolled in the course.

The goal is to hear from all of the students in the course so you can understand variations in experience and get the full picture. Students come into a class from a variety of academic and personal backgrounds and it is of vital importance to make sure that your course offers an equitable learning experience. To learn more about who typically responds to end-of-course surveys at SFU, you can click here ('SETC- Who is not responding to surveys?').

Realistically, a 100% response rate is rarely achieved and we must rely on generalizations to interpret the student experience. For now, this means using statistical recommendations that consider the amount of variation that can be captured in a given response rate.

Instructors can compare their response rate with the recommended rate by class size below. This table provides a general guideline for response rate by class size.

It is important to note that, when it comes to the CE Survey, these guidelines are approximate. The calculations underpinning the guidelines are based on random sampling and the CE Survey data is from a self-selected sample. If the response rate is noticeably low, it likely indicates that the survey results are not comprehensive enough to get a full picture of students’ learning experiences in your course. 

Class size

Nulty (2008) Recommended response rate (Liberal*)

Nulty (2008) Recommended response rate (Conservative**)

5 - 11

At least 75%


12 - 30



31 – 100



101 – 200



201 - 300



 * Liberal: 80% confidence level, 10% sampling error

 ** Conservative: 95% confidence level, 3% sampling error

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.