The Effect of Incentives and Other Instructor-Driven Strategies to Increase Online Student Evaluation Response Rates

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Course evaluation (often termed student evaluations of teaching or SETs) are pervasive in higher education. As SETs increasingly shift from pencil-and-paper to online, concerns grow over the lower response rates that typically accompany online SETs. This study of online SET response rates examined data from 678 faculty respondents and student response rates from an entire semester. The analysis focused on those tactics that faculty employ to raise response rates for their courses, and explored instructor and course characteristics as contributing factors. A comprehensive regression model was evaluated to determine the most effective tactics and characteristics. Using incentives had the most impact on response rates. Other effective tactics that increase response rates include reminding students to take the evaluation, explaining how the evaluations would be used to improve instruction, sending personal emails and posting reminders on Blackboard®. Incentives are not widely used; however, findings suggest that non-point incentives work as well as point-based ones, as do simple-to-administer minimum class-wide response rate expectations (compared to individual completion).