For our students, surveys have become a ubiquitous fact of life and an annoyance to many. Web technology has made it all too easy to create and conduct surveys online. Georgetown students frequently receive invitations to take surveys – some University-sponsored, many not. With the proliferation of surveys comes “survey fatigue.” And with fatigue comes declining response rates. These, in turn, entail questionable survey results. Yet surveys continue to play a critical role at Georgetown in gathering needed student information. To understand the opinions, beliefs, attitudes and perspectives of our students, surveys often offer the only practical approach.
To reconcile these competing interests, the University is adopting a student survey policy. This policy aims to balance the demand for surveys with the burden that they impose on our students. To achieve this balance, this policy must manage and limit the number of University-sponsored surveys that students are invited to take. It must coordinate the timing of surveys to maximize their effectiveness. It must also promote good survey design and sound survey practices. Finally, this policy must ensure that student surveys benefit the University as a whole.
This Georgetown University student survey policy mandates the following:
- Anyone seeking to survey 100 or more Georgetown University students must apply to the Office of Assessment & Decision Support (OADS) for permission to administer the survey. Applicants include administrators, faculty and students within Georgetown, as well as any organizations outside the University. Note that faculty wishing to survey students in their respective classes are exempt from this application process. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their applications at least 3 months in advance of the proposed survey launch date. The online application form can be accessed by clicking here.
- All applications to survey Georgetown students will be referred to the Student Survey Oversight Group, which must review and approve any new student survey. Appointed by the Provost, members of this group will consider the new survey in light of existing surveys to minimize any duplication and avoid scheduling conflicts. They will review the survey’s design and methodology (e.g., sampling, incentives) to ensure alignment with best practices. They will also verify that the survey complies with FERPA requirements and meets the IRB’s approval, which must be obtained separately. Finally, this group will consider whether the new survey’s findings are likely to serve the broader interests and priorities of the University.
- Once the Student Survey Oversight Group has reviewed the application, OADS will notify the applicant of its decision. The oversight group may approve the new survey; it may approve the survey with conditions attached; or it may decline to approve the survey. Where approved, the principal investigator should work with OADS to schedule a timeline for the new survey. OADS will maintain an online calendar that shows all approved student surveys for a given academic year. Every effort should be made to solidify this survey calendar by June preceding the new academic year. The student survey calendar is available by clicking here.
- For approved survey proposals, the Office of Assessment & Decision Support will provide the list of student email addresses required for the new survey. Unless there are compelling reasons to employ a census, the list of students should be produced using a randomly drawn sample. The principal investigator will work with OADS to determine the target audience and the minimal sample size needed to yield statistically significant results. Note that no other office may provide this list of student email addresses without the consent of OADS. The email list should not be redistributed or used for any other purposes without authorization of OADS. The principal investigator must be willing to share the survey data and findings with OADS.