November 22, 2022

Getting student feedback: instructors share tips for increasing Course Experience survey response rates

The Course Experience surveys are open from November 22–December 6. Students can find a link in their email or go to

SFU’s newly launched Course Experience surveys provide instructors and the university community with crucial insights into the student learning experience. But there’s one question the surveys can’t answer: how do you get students to fill them out?

  • Learn about how the new survey model is better for instructors and students in our recent article

With the Fall 2022 Course Experience survey period now officially open, we asked instructors across SFU to share their tips and strategies for encouraging their students to complete them.

Show them why their input matters

Agata Becalska (Lecturer, Biology) shares how she has used student feedback to change her course, so that students feel that their input is making a difference.

“One valuable piece of feedback that I received through the course surveys was about a new assignment I had introduced that semester. Students liked it, but felt they were pouring their hearts into it and that the allotted marks didn’t reflect this work. I agreed with their perspective, and the next time I ran the course, I increased the value of the assessment.  When I remind students in class that the course experience surveys are open, I tell them about changes I have made like this one so they know that I’m genuinely listening to their perspectives.”

Make them the experts

Tamara O’Doherty (Lecturer, Criminology) positions the surveys as being all about peer advice.

“I frame the Course Experience surveys as an opportunity for my students to share advice they would give to another student taking this class. I do this by adding advice questions to the instructor set. And to show them that I take their ideas seriously, I integrate this feedback into assignments or lectures. For example, on an essay assignment I might say something like ‘past students suggest that the best way to work on this is by doing A and B.’”

Set the stage for critical feedback

Manolis Savva (Assistant Professor, School of Computing Science) sets the stage for his students to think critically about their learning experience by facilitating a class discussion.

“I dedicate time during class to doing a critique of the course, what were the positives, the negatives, and how things can be improved. I make this an in-class exercise and then afterwards we discuss it as a group. My hope is that this conversation helps my students think more deeply about their experience so that when the Course Experience surveys open they feel more equipped to respond to the survey questions and can share feedback that is more useful and actionable.”

Give them class time (at the right time)

Lara Aknin (Professor, Department of Psychology) provides in-class time for students to complete their surveys.

“I give my students time at the beginning of class, rather than at the end of a session, to complete the survey because I know they are more likely to complete it that way. If I provide them time at the end, most people will just leave with the best of intentions to do it but forget.”

Aknin also mentions the importance of building a culture of formative feedback throughout the course, so that students are familiar with reflecting on their learning experience by the time the Course Experience Surveys open.

Build a culture of self-reflection 

Diana Cukierman (University Lecturer, School of Computing Science) uses the Course Experience surveys as an extension of a self-reflection component in her course.

“My students receive 2% at the end of the course for completing several formative assessments after each course milestone. The Course Experience surveys then becomes one more assignment in the reflections category. I use the instructor questions [in the surveys] to pose some self-reflection questions and once the class has reached a certain threshold of responses, everyone is awarded points, which end up constituting about 0.25%.”

Remind them 

Atousa Hajshirmohammadi (University Lecturer, School of Engineering Science) provides reminders.

“I send one or two Canvas announcements to my class thanking students who have responded to the survey and reminding others to do so as well. I also let my students know that their feedback will help me adjust the course delivery in the future as well as help the department in their decision making. I usually see an uptick in the responses after this announcement.” 

If you would like to share a slide with the survey link during your class, download this template.

Provide response rate updates

Cukierman shares the survey’s built-in response rate monitor to show the current response rate at regular intervals throughout the survey period. 

“Students can see the response rate increasing as they get closer to the end of the semester. Seeing the response rates in real-time gamifies the survey for them. It makes it into a collaborative assignment which they help each other complete.” 

If you would like to learn how to share the survey’s built-in response rate monitor in class, watch this video.

It's not all about instructors

Although research indicates that instructors have the greatest influence when it comes to students’ decisions to complete their Course Experience surveys, other players can have an impact, notes Elizabeth Elle, Vice-Provost, Learning and Teaching.

“We encourage chairs to send the message to students in their departments about the importance and value of their feedback, so that they understand that what they say can also impact decisions at the program level. Student voice matters and the more ways we can communicate this, the better.”

Course Experience surveys are open November 22–December 6, 2022. 


Watch a video tutorial on showing the survey's built-in response rate monitor.

Download the PowerPoint slide