Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Gathering survey information online

Over the past day or so I have been developing a bespoke survey for the researcher on the project to use. This need for the bespoke tool has come about as they would like to survey the students who have just recently used the WebPA tool (we are fast approaching the end of semester two).

This all seems so simple, why not use one of the many tools that are already out there and in use. For a start there is SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy and FreeSurveysOnline to name a few who are free. But that's the catch isn't it 'free', however, what they really are is limited use. All three mentioned above are free is your survey will be for less than 100 user and only 10 questions (approximately).

So that left us in a bit of limbo... we know at Loughborough that we wanted to contact the academics of 35 modules which have run or are about to run WebPA. Each module ranged in size from 30+ to 300+, which automatically rules out the free survey tools, even taking into account the low response rate normally received by surveys.

At this point the options are limited but viable. We can either bite the bullet and pay to run the survey or develop a bespoke form. However, in building a bespoke form there are compromised to be had. The first is that you loose the ability for the researcher to create and edit the form easily ( well in our case some knowledge of PHP and HTML) and you also loose the nice GUI reporting tools, but who says that they will provide you with the reports you actually want. On the plus side, all the information is kept within the institution, which helps with the ethics side of carrying out the survey and the data is easily accessible and can be manipulated easily via a spread sheet. The final survey has also been tailored so that we can collect information dependant on the URL sent to the recipients/participants. This has meant that we can easily filter the information dependant on module and also semester, but also easily use the same survey at the adopting institutions, by identifying the university.

All in all there is nothing wrong with the tools available that are 'free' as in 'limited', but there are times where a bespoke survey will provide slightly more, even if it is just simple peace of mind on where the resultant information will be.


rgardler said...

OSS Watch recently conducted our bi-annual national survey.

We used LimeSurvey, an open source survey engine. It was really useful and worked a treat.

See http://wiki.oss-watch.ac.uk/LimeSurveyInUbuntu

Nic said...

Thanks this is really useful to know. I am not sure if the project will be running any more surveys, but this is definately a tool that we will keep in mind for next time.