From Paper Survey to Google Forms

Professor of the Practice Linda Franzoni, Mechanical Engineering, was one of seven Duke faculty who participated in a CIT Fellowship program in Fall 2011 focusing on Sustainability in Teaching Practice. This post summarizes some of Franzoni’s teaching experiences during the Fellowship. Franzoni and the other CIT Sustainability Fellows are part of the larger group of Trillium Fellows, faculty who are committed to incorporating sustainability content into their Duke courses in alignment with Duke’s 2009 campus Climate Action Plan. For more about the Trillium Fellows, contact Charlotte Clark.

For my “Introduction to Engineering” course, I rely on student surveys for two main purposes: assigning students to small groups for tours or meetings with faculty, and receiving feedback on class content. The course content feedback used to be turned in as a “feedback paper” at the beginning of the next class period, but in Fall 2011 instead of collecting paper from students, I used online surveys that were posted in Blackboard in the Assignments section, but were actually created in Google Forms.

I was introduced to Google Forms by a student in the class, who overheard me asking a colleague if he knew how to do the type of survey that I wanted to do, including collecting the data, sorting, etc. The student said that he knew how to do it and would send me a sample that I could edit. I was surprised at how easy the Google Forms tool was to use for creating surveys, and how seamlessly the data can be downloaded as an Excel file for post-processing.

Once I saw how easy it was to use Google Forms for feedback collection, I decided to use it to conduct the other type of survey, as well. The second type of survey traditionally involved numerous pieces of paper stapled together, describing small group experiences (a paragraph each), beside which were columns to check “most interested,” “very interested,” “somewhat interested,” or “not interested.” Once I collected these responses from the students, I then had to manually transfer the data to a spreadsheet in order to process the information and put students into groups for their assigned experience. Converting to the online survey not only saved paper, but also saved time.

Overall, eliminating paper feedback forms and paper surveys saved an estimated 1,000 sheets of paper for this one-semester class. The time savings was also much appreciated!

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