These guidelines are designed to help offices that need to gather survey responses from students as part of their unit’s responsibilities. Student email addresses provide a convenient, low-cost way to inform students about on-line surveys, but care needs to be taken to ensure that students are not annoyed by inappropriate surveys or overwhelmed by the volume of requests. Otherwise, response rates will fall and students will become less vigilant about checking their email boxes. In that spirit, the following guidelines are suggested:
- Target surveys only to the relevant group of students. Students are more likely to respond when they understand the relevance and importance of the survey questions to them. In addition, it is important to minimize the number of surveys that any individual student might be asked to complete. This will help ensure that response rates do not drop to unacceptable levels for all surveys and that students do not view their official email address as a source of unwanted and unneeded messages. The Office of the Registrar will need to limit the number of survey emails sent to students if the volume of requests exceeds reasonable levels.
- Sample only as many students as needed to ensure a reasonable sampling error. This will also help control the number of times students are asked to complete surveys.
- Provide information in the email about the purpose of the survey and the value to the student. Students have a right to a clear description of the survey’s purpose, which should be conveyed as part of the initial email message. Also, response rates increase when a survey’s purpose and value are clearly stated.
- Make it clear to students that their participation is optional. Students need to know that they are not required to respond to campus surveys. Class assignments that require survey participation are the only exceptions to this guideline. This message should also be conveyed in the initial email message.
- Ensure the confidentiality of student responses. Students should be told that their responses are confidential and will not be reported individually. The researcher has an obligation to ensure that an individual student cannot be identified in any reporting of survey results.
- Keep the email message to students concise and clear. Long email messages are ineffective and annoying.
- Clearly indicate contact information about the person and office responsible for the survey. Students, as well as the Office of the Registrar, need to know who is responsible for the survey. If students reply to their email message, the responsible office should be the recipient.
- Do not use students’ official email address for market research or solicitation. Surveys designed to solicit student participation in a service or to increase student use of a product will not be supported. Student surveys should support the core academic mission of the University.
- Send only one follow-up email reminder to complete the survey. To limit the volume of email to students, only a single reminder should be sent, generally about two weeks after the initial email message to students.