Improving the Online Student Feedback System

In my previous post, I shared about how student feedback on modules are important in shaping the way we teach and learn at NUS.


Some time ago, the NUS Teaching Academy initiated a few projects to review existing processes pertaining to teaching and learning in the university. A sub-committee was convened to reflect on and review the current student feedback system. For those who are not familiar with the Academy, it is a unit established in 2009 to foster a culture of teaching excellence and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in the University, among other objectives.


After scrutinising the system we are currently using to collate and analyse feedback on our modules on a semestral basis, the Teaching Academy Fellows in the sub-committee highlighted two key discernible trends:


1. Student feedback response rates have been on the decline in recent years, especially for advanced level modules. The sub-committee noticed that while Year 1 students have generally been quite enthusiastic about providing feedback, the response rate for undergraduates typically decreases sharply after the second year, and dips to about 40% by the final year. A high student response rate is generally desired because it helps the University to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.


As I had mentioned in an earlier post, we constantly encourage our Departments to reflect on the student feedback received. We are now asking our colleagues to actively communicate to students, the changes and enhancements that have resulted from student feedback. Through this, I hope that students can see the value of their participation in the Online Student Feedback Exercise. Notwithstanding, I welcome ideas on how we can motivate students to participate in the Student Feedback Exercise.


2. Comments provided by students could be more informative about the quality of teaching and quality of modules. While the majority of comments have been constructive, some comments are too vague while others leave remarks that are irrelevant to the content, design or delivery of the module concerned.


Some examples of feedback that are less helpful but might make interesting reading tend to be along the following lines:

  • “the lecturer dresses really well for a small class”
  • “the lecturer needs to cut down on his intake of Coke”, and
  • “the lecturer’s jokes are not funny”.

We certainly would not want to prescribe or conscribe student’s expressions and feedback. At the same time, we hope that students can give constructive feedback and suggestions that directly address teaching and the curriculum, so that Departments and lecturers can take action to act on the feedback received, to deliver a better learning experience when the module is next conducted.


Taking these issues into consideration, the Teaching Academy has made several recommendations to improve the Student Feedback system. In consultation with a student team, they have also redesigned the questions to make them more comprehensive, and made the user interface more intuitive, streamlined and attractive to students.


Screenshot of the current interface


Screenshot of the new interface


The refinements to the Online Student Feedback Exercise are a continual process. Another feature that we hope to introduce, possibly from AY2014/15, is the addition of a section on teacher attributes, where students can select multiple descriptors that most appropriately describes the learning outcomes facilitated by the teacher.


My colleagues and I are always on the lookout for better ways of imparting knowledge to our students – this is at the heart of what we do as educators. A more efficient and effective student feedback system would go a long way towards achieving this aim. Your feedback is important to us, and my colleagues and I look forward to receiving your comments in the upcoming Online Student Feedback Exercise.