Forward FOCUS Frequently Asked Questions

Forward FOCUS Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to use the Forward FOCUS?

If your department has chosen to use Forward FOCUS as the departmental option for student evaluations, you are required to use the Forward FOCUS (without modifying or deleting questions) and to submit the student responses to your department.  See our departmental guidelines page for more information on the use of Forward Focus as a departmental option.

Individual faculty in departments that have adopted SRTI as their departmental option may continue to use Forward FOCUS. This participation in Forward FOCUS is voluntary and confidential; the anonymous student responses are available only to the faculty member teaching the course. We suggest not overlapping implementation dates of the SRTI and the Forward FOCUS.

I don’t teach in Moodle or Blackboard. How can I get access to the Forward FOCUS?

We have created a Google Forms version of the survey. To create a Forward FOCUS survey for your course:

  1. Click on “Make a copy” of the survey to save a copy of the Forward FOCUS to your UMass Google Drive account. You may need to sign into your UMass Google account.
  2. We recommend that you add your course title and number to the survey title or within the introductory text, particularly if you will be administering the form in multiple courses.
  3. Provide your students with a link to the Forward FOCUS survey (Found under the purple "Send" button in the upper right").

To confirm the Form is set up to be anonymous:

  1. Open the form you created. 
  2. Select the Settings tab. 
  3. Under settings, expand the Responses section. 
  4. Under responses, confirm that "Collect email addresses" is toggled OFF.
  5. Under responses, confirm that "Restrict to users in UMass Amherst and its trusted organizations" is toggled ON.

To disable notifications of new responses:

  1. Open the form you created. 
  2. Select the Responses tab. 
  3. On the Responses tab, click the 3 vertical dots. 
  4. On the dropdown menu, uncheck Get email notifications for new responses. 

If you have questions about how to make the Forward FOCUS available to your students, contact instruct@umass.edu.

Does the CTL send the Forward FOCUS to my students?

No. The instructor must:

  1. import the survey into their course (if Moodle or Blackboard) or embed a link to the Google Forms version of the survey in Canvas;
  2. provide students with the link to the survey and tell them by when to complete the survey (usually 2 weeks is recommended);
  3. remind students periodically to take the survey. 

Blackboard users: You may follow this step by step guide to modify and administer FOCUS. For access to the summer term version of the Forward FOCUS in Blackboard, you must first email the SPIRE Course ID# for your course to ffocus@umass.edu.

Does the CTL send me a report of student responses?

No. Only instructors have access to the Forward FOCUS responses. For departments that choose to use the Forward FOCUS as a departmental option, instructors must send the responses to their department. See the departmental guidelines page for tips.

Is the survey anonymous?

Yes. The Forward FOCUS surveys for Moodle, Blackboard, and Google Forms are by default set to be anonymous. Do not modify these settings to preserve student anonymity. 

Can I modify Forward FOCUS?

If your department has chosen to use FOCUS as their departmental course evaluation, you may not modify or delete questions on FOCUS. Departments may decide to add questions to all faculty's Forward FOCUS surveys. Please see departmental guidelines page.  

Instructors who are using the FOCUS as a supplement to their departmental course evaluations (e.g., SRTIs) may modify FOCUS. You can customize the survey to get targeted feedback from your students. We suggest that you replace existing questions and/or delete questions that are not important to your teaching/course. For tips on modifying existing questions, view these guidelines. You may also reach out to ffocus@umass.edu for individualized assistance in designing effective questions and customizing FOCUS to meet specific goals you have for your teaching.

How can TAs in my course send the Forward FOCUS to their students?

As your options depend on how your course is set up, it is best to contact instruct@umass.edu or drop-in to their daily Faculty Support Zoom sessions open Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm.

Where can I find my Forward FOCUS responses for past courses?

Because all Moodle courses were transitioned to Moodle in the Cloud in Summer 2021, Forward FOCUS responses in Moodle prior to Spring 2021 (e.g., Fall 2020) can no longer be accessed online. This does not apply to instructors who used Blackboard or another survey platform to administer Forward FOCUS in their courses prior to Spring 2021. 

How does SRTI compare to Forward FOCUS?

The Forward FOCUS was designed for instructors to collect formative feedback on the course from their students; thus the questions differ in focus and content (download a PDF of the Forward FOCUS survey to review the questions).

The main logistical difference is that the Forward FOCUS is not centrally administered. Instructors must handle survey distribution and reminders communication with their students for each course in which they use FOCUS. This chart (PDF) summarizes the main differences between SRTI and FOCUS regarding implantation and reporting results.

How can the Forward FOCUS benefit me and my students?

The Forward FOCUS is a course redesign instrument, designed to get specific feedback from students on course activities and experiences and to inform the instructor about ways to redesign or “tweak” the course as it is taught in the future—whether face-to-face or online. Students give feedback on how valuable they found different course activities, what they learned, what was helpful in supporting their learning, and what changes to the course would support their learning. In addition, this survey also gives students an opportunity to reflect and share their experiences. Student reflection on their learning process helps solidify learning for long-term gains (Ambrose et al., 2010).