Using Mid-Semester Student Feedback to Improve Your Course

How can you let students know you care about their progress and that they are an integral part of the teaching and learning process? How can you also gather vital information about how students are perceiving the course content, learning activities, or other aspects of your course? 

Soliciting feedback from students early on or at different points in an ongoing course is an often-overlooked opportunity. This webinar will provide practical tips for gathering formative student feedback supported by research, and review how you can easily use online tools or other methods to accomplish these goals.

View the recording of Using Mid-Semester Student to Improve Your Course webinar co-hosted by Susan Ko, Faculty Development Consultant, Office of Online Education and Clinical Professor, Department of History.

You can also view the webinar presentation slides and read the overview of the webinar below - prepared by Susan Ko, Faculty Development Consultant, Office of Online Education.

The Why

The value of gathering feedback from students via mid-semester surveys is well supported by research. Such surveys allow for early feedback on which one can act while the course is still ongoing and demonstrates concern for student progress, making students an integral part of the teaching and learning experience. It is particularly valuable in fully online classes which do not allow for visible cues to student understanding.

Some reasons for gathering early feedback are to gain info on the relative effectiveness of different elements of the course, on new elements of a course, to receive suggestions on additional support needed from either instructor or resources, and to gain insights on how students are actually perceiving or experiencing the course.

In regard to timing and format, it should be early enough in the semester to still make revisions or respond to the findings, brief and anonymous to encourage participation, and should include some open-ended questions, including those asking about what helped or hindered learning.

Post-survey, it is important for faculty to acknowledge and thank students, and to indicate any changes faculty will make in response. Survey data can be combined with other data from the course to get a more complete picture of the student experience.

To get an idea of what you might ask in a mid-semester survey, see some sample questions in the resource section below and watch the faculty experience presentation for course-specific examples.

The How

There are a number of easy-to-use tools that can be used to create and administer surveys. These include Blackboard surveys, Microsoft Forms, and Google forms.
Creating survey questions in Blackboard is similar to creating questions in Blackboard tests. The advantages of using Blackboard survey tool are that the tool is already integrated into Blackboard, the results are anonymous, and one can download the results from the Grade Center into Excel. The downside is that the process is not as user friendly as it might be and the downloaded results are not visually appealing. We provide instructions for downloading here.

Microsoft Forms are free for CUNY employees through Microsoft Office 365 for Education and one can create forms using various question types. Results are anonymous, and can be downloaded to Excel. The results are visually appealing and easy to interpret. While the survey lives outside Blackboard, one can post a link to the survey.

Google Forms are free and have many of the same advantages as Microsoft Forms in regard to types of questions, visual appeal, ease of download, and anonymity, and while not currently institutionally supported by CUNY, are easy to use.

The Faculty Experience 

Susan Ko, Clinical Professor in History at Lehman, shared her experience with us of administering a survey during week 5 in two of her fully online classes, HIW 316: East Asia in the Modern World and HIW 322: Chinese Civilization. Because both classes were newly developed for online, she was interested in understanding how students were experiencing the various and diverse course elements and materials.

In the surveys, students were asked to rank the various course elements according to how helpful they were to their learning. They were also asked to explain why they ranked the highest and lowest as they did. She included a question asking comments or suggestions on the various types of instructor feedback that had been offered to students as well as an open-ended general question soliciting any suggestions students might have for improving the learning experience.

For each class, Dr. Ko introduced the survey and explained why she was asking students to take it, and after the survey, provided students with some feedback on the results, while acknowledging and thanking students for their participation. She also indicated what actions she would take in response or provided additional clarification on issues raised in student responses. Survey participation was satisfactory, with about half of the students responding, and each produced some actionable information that Dr. Ko was able to use during the remainder of the course. The surveys were repeated in the last few weeks of the courses to both confirm initial results and to query students on elements introduced into the second half of the courses.


Sample Mid-Semester Survey Questions: 

Survey Tools:

Guidelines for Downloading Blackboard Survey Results PDF

Microsoft Office 365 for Education

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact the Office of Online Education at