Survey Coordination and Procedures

Context

The ease and relative low-cost of conducting web-based surveys has contributed to a climate of over-surveying at many higher education institutions. One adverse consequence of “survey fatigue” induced by the proliferation of online survey requests is diminished response rates. Because findings from low-response rate surveys are susceptible to bias, their value as evidence for institutional decision making may be limited.

In an effort to foster survey climates that yield high-quality data, a number of top universities have adopted policies to coordinate and govern the administration, quality, and timing of student, staff, faculty and alumni surveys.  UMass Amherst has joined other institutions in taking proactive steps to manage campus survey activity through better coordination and scheduling, as well as consultation on survey design and administration procedures.

Rationale

Convinced of a pressing need to formalize campus survey coordination and support processes, the Campus Leadership Council (CLC) approved the formation of a Campus Survey Coordinating Committee (CSCC) in spring 2018. The CLC tasked the CSCC with three main activities aimed at fostering a healthy campus survey climate:

  1. Oversee a campus-wide process of registering proposed online surveys and make recommendations on timing and logistics to minimize survey conflicts and maximize response rates.
     
  2. Review proposed online surveys and provide recommendations and support for implementing survey research best practices.
     
  3. Develop and maintain an online calendar of scheduled surveys and provide online tools to guide survey research focused on students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Coordination Scope

These procedures apply to all of the following:

  • Online surveys used for College/School, Vice Chancellor Unit, or campus-wide planning, assessment, or improvement (including surveys conducted by consultants).
  • Online surveys administered to the entire UMass Amherst community.
  • Online surveys administered to University primary population or demographic sub-population – whether a sample or all -- (e.g. faculty, transfer students, students in a College, alumni, etc.).
     

The procedures do not apply to the following:

  • Instructors’ surveys of students in their courses.
  • Point-of-service satisfaction or evaluation surveys for users of specific services or attendees of specific events.
  • Registered Student Organization (RSO) endorsed surveys of their own members.
  • Department- or Program- endorsed surveys of their own students, faculty, staff, or alumni.
  • Surveys of a finite set of participants in small scale research projects.

If you have any questions about whether the coordination procedures apply to your survey plans, please contact the Campus Survey Coordination Committee at oapa@umass.edu.

Procedures

Effective campus survey coordination, guidance, and support hinge on advance planning.  To plan and execute a survey in accordance with University policy, follow the steps below – preferably at least one semester in advance of conducting your survey: 

  1. Consult the UMass Amherst Survey Calendar, which shows timing (and other details) for all registered survey administrations several semesters out. The University relies on a variety of established online surveys that are administered at regular intervals (e.g., the Campus Climate Survey, the NSSE, SRTI).  It is important when planning “ad hoc” surveys to avoid overlap or conflict with these University-level assessment priorities -- or with other campus surveys already on the calendar.

  2. Consult with OAPA (oapa@umass.edu) as needed about your sampling plan (if applicable) or other aspects of your survey project.  

  3. Complete and submit the UMass Amherst Survey Request Form. The CSCC will review and provide timely constructive feedback on all survey requests, and consult campus leadership as needed to resolve problems posed by overlapping or conflicting surveys, or other survey-related issues.

Campus Survey Coordination Committee Membership

Marcy Clark, Director of Assessment and Technology
Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL)

Krisztina Filep, Director of Operational Analytics
University Analytics and Institutional Research (UAIR)

Elena Lamontagne, Senior Director of Communications Strategy, Advancement
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Martha Stassen, Associate Provost, Assessment and Educational Effectiveness and Director
Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA)

Liz Williams, Director of Survey and Evaluation Research
Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA)