Google Docs Survey

homework in pjs

no need for a parking pass

learn at my leisure

-Respondent #3

The purpose of this survey was to gather data about online students at UAF and their experience with distance education. I sent the survey to both my ED431 and Secondary Licensure Program cohorts who are either currently, or have in the past, enrolled in online courses. The questions focus primarily on the respondents’ experiences with online courses, the platforms/applications they used, problems they encountered, and how they now feel about online education. As “extra credit,” I asked respondents to write a haiku about their online learning experience, which I have included as section breaks. Overall, I had eleven respondents to my survey, which I realize is a very small sample size, but there were still interesting data points within the responses. There are four points in particular that are worth discussion:

can’t pay attention

do not know who is talking

opening new tab

-Respondent #4

  1. Spread of Learning Applications

bar graph of commonly used platforms and applications

The sixth question on my survey asked respondents to check all the online learning platforms and applications that had been used to facilitate their courses. While I anticipated some overlap simply because most of the courses were within the UAF School of Education, the data showed that students had been exposed to a wide variety of applications. I believe this is an indication of where we are in the evolution of online learning. 10 of my 11 respondents had used both Blackboard and Google Hangout, but then they also checked three or four other applications. There does not seem to be one platform that meets all the needs of a distance course. Professors are trying new applications to enhance student learning and the overall experience. While using multiple applications for a single course can be confusing for some students (discussed later in section 3), these results are still to UAF’s credit. A willingness to progress and continuously experiment with new methods of course delivery is what will keep their distance program relevant in a fast-pace tech world.

love to learn online

be a mom and study too

but can’t see others

-Respondent #2

2. Blackboard vs. Google

bar graph comparing accessibility of Blackboard vs. Google

Seeing that respondents had the most experience with the Blackboard and Google platforms, I singled out data from my seventh survey question to focus on how accessible respondent felt those particular platforms were. While the respondents lauded the accessibility of Google as “very accessible” (9 respondents vs. 4 for Blackboard), 7 respondents felt that Blackboard was only “somewhat accessible” or “somewhat inaccessible.” This may not come as a huge surprise for those who teach or take courses through these platforms, but I think there is a bigger issue beneath these results. Blackboard is primarily an education platform, and with the addition of Blackboard Collaborate works to provide a “one-stop” experience for online courses. Google is, well, Google. It is a platform that for many is part of their daily lives, with applications that have proven to be incredibly useful for the purpose of education. To be fair to Blackboard, we are somewhat conditioned to Google’s interface. But, if universities are paying large sums of money to use Blackboard (sometimes as a primary online platform) it is worrisome that it lags so far behind a non-educational platform, and it should be receiving better feedback from the students who use it.

I circled the drain

Procrastination whirlpool

Just dive in and swim!

-Respondent #9

  1. Issues to Address

bar graph showing common issues online students encounter

Asking about accessibility naturally led to the other problems that online students encounter. For the 8th question on my survey, I had respondents check all of the issues that made completion of their online course more difficult. Unfortunately, one of the top results was “Technical Problems (machine error)” with 5 responses, which suggests that even our normalized use of tech devices and internet access is still victim to unseen difficulties. Beyond this, the next four highest ranked issues can be divided into either learning-based or instruction-based. “Time Management” (4 responses) and “Motivation” (5 responses) are learning-based issues. These are student skills necessary to the successful completion of an online course, but for those who are unused to an online classroom the lack of scheduled meeting and physically present cohort can be a stumbling block. As for the instruction-based issues, “Lack of communication with professor or cohort” (3 responses) and “Confusion over assignments and/or online applications (operator error)” (3 responses), these can be directly addressed through course design. The instructor is able to remedy these issues through increased and clear communication, and making resources available for learning about new applications. As discussed in section 1, some students may become overwhelmed when more than a few applications are used for an online course. For these students to be successful, the instructor should work to be obviously available in both the response and initiation of communication (email, phone calls, online posts, etc.), and eager to support their students through learning a new platform/application.

Doing it three years

Don’t regret a single thing

Online ed wahoo

-Respondent #8

  1. Switching Roles

Bar graph comparing number of online courses taken vs. interest in teaching online courses

The final question in my survey was perhaps the most important: “Would you be interested in teaching online courses?” As online education becomes an effective credit-earning option, not only at the university level but K-12 as well, it is integral to its future that people take up the torch and teach online courses themselves. In organizing my data, I wanted to see if there was a correlation between the amount of online courses a student took and their interest in teaching online courses in the future. Basically, if this is how you prefer to learn, is this how you’d like to teach as well? For the most part my assumption was correct, those who had taken 16+ online courses were more likely to say that they would like to teach online courses in the future (4 said “Yes” and 1 was “Unsure”). One respondent from both the 11-15 and 1-4 categories also responded, “Yes.” It was heartening to see that despite all of the issues recorded in an earlier question that 60% of the respondents were interested in teaching online courses.

Complete Response Data

Overall Impression of Google Forms

Making the survey was surprisingly enjoyable. I liked figuring out how I wanted the data to come across and which question form to use. At first I thought the whole things was a bit plain, but then realized that you could embed photos and videos, change the background, and create page breaks. I did not end up using all of these features, but it makes me more likely to use it in my classroom. Even in my Home Ec class I think I could easily convert my “Kitchen Safety” quiz into a Google Form, and it would be made epically more interesting with spotting potential hazards in photos or videos. Really in any class, Google Form could be used for formative/summative assessment or just a simple questionnaire.

In the future I would like to distribute the form differently. Using email to send a long clickable link (which makes anybody hesitate), or displaying the first questions and then answering the rest of the survey elsewhere, felt clunky. Even if the whole survey made it in the email, the background was missing. Maybe if the email itself had a nice template it would come across as more professional. Emailing seems to be the easiest way to share a survey with a large amount of people, but I would rather embed it on my website, or for my class put it on Google Classroom.

I felt my lack of Excel-like program knowledge limited what I was able to do with the response data. Having to reorganize the data into new tables to make the charts was a step I had not anticipated, and which I found pretty frustrating for a bit. After a few YouTube tutorials I was able to get a few of my charts showing the data the way I had envisioned. I would need to learn more about spreadsheets if I were going to use the response data from future surveys for much beyond the basics.

Online Education survey can be viewed here

7 thoughts on “Google Docs Survey

  1. Regarding: Google Docs Survey

    Grammar: Seems good to go.
    Plurals & possessives: I saw at least one.
    Content: Q4 “Would you be interested in teaching online courses.” Switching roles for educators is an hot topic. The sensitive nature of that question does warrant a delicate, politically savvy wording to illicit a relatively unbiased result. Within the population that you sampled I’d be skeptical about results. Correlation between cause and effect is a great tool if a model sufficiently describes a population’s particular behavior. Instead, do we observe a clustering of answers relative to questions? Your gut feelings for correlating # of online course taken with feelings to teach seem to have merit…those are my gut feelings. Thank you for sharing.

    • It is difficult to prove causation, especially with such limited data, but the correlation is a pretty powerful one, especially given the audience. The question dovetails nicely with Issues to Address and Blackboard vs Google. The motivation issue jumped out at me. I’ll have more to say about that in my response to your post, but I suspect motivation might be a major factor in whether or not one wanted to teach an online course. Success in any online course requires self-discipline and motivation. If lack of motivation colors your experience with online learning, you’d be less likely to want to teach online.

  2. Howdy,

    Question: How did you get your embedded Google spreadsheet to display in a large size. My embedded Google spreadsheet is impractical to use because it is too small. I need to make is bigger.

    Many thanks

  3. So much to digest here. First, let me say that I enjoyed working with you on the survey and particularly enjoyed reading your response. Your deft use of illustrations and quotes allows your narrative to flow in terms of both meaning and aesthetics. It’s a fine example of what online publishing can be. The quotes give your narrative a personal touch that is quite appealing. (I love Respondent #9’s responses.)

    As I mentioned in my response to Patrick’s comments, the responses to question #3 (Issue to Address) struck me as critically important to understanding what works–and what doesn’t–in online learning environments. Motivation and time management are crucial skills to have if you are going to be successful in an online environment. I suspect that Education with a capital E is largely to blame for that. For 12+ years we have conditioned students to expect an externally enforced schedule and to wait until everyone is on the same page before proceeding. It’s probably not surprising that students have issues with time management and motivation given that we’ve essentially taken those issues out of their hands for most of their school careers. The problem for an instructor, of course, is to figure out how to provide that skill set–or at least provide a structure in which the need to develop that skill set becomes evident and a necessary part of the course. I don’t want to stand on this soapbox too much longer, but I think it warrants serious discussion. By the way, I think the same principle applies to face to face courses, but that’s another story.

    I did find the Switching Roles question to be interesting, and my sense is that you are on the right track here. The more experience you have have with online learning, the more likely it is that you may want to teach in that environment. Whether that is because you have had positive experiences or because you have some innovative ideas to remedy the issues that you’ve encountered along the way is not clear, but the correlation is pretty strong and worthy of further investigation someday.

    I should also mention that the technical issues is the bane of any online instructor. They’re often difficult to identify without being there, and sometimes the issue is with the skill set of the learner. Then there are file type compatibility issues, lack of bandwidth, incompatible software, lack of access to needed peripherals…

    This is ready to publish. Very thoughtful and thorough.

  4. Hi,

    This was obviously very thoughtfully conceived and well written. My favorite line was “Google is, well, Google. It is a platform that for many is part of their daily lives, with applications that have proven to be incredibly useful for the purpose of education. ” I think you are really right on this one. Blackboard is alien to many while google provides the comfort of familiarity in what can otherwise be an intimidating environment. Jumping in on the motivation topic…though the responsibility does ultimately fall in the student’s court, I think this is another area that the instructor can have a positive impact in during the design phase.

  5. First of all, this is wonderful! I meant to comment after I read your post the first time, but I did not know what to say other than what a fantastic read! How fun to see my haiku up there!! I have enjoyed reading all of your posts and each of your posts have served as a model for me as I work on my own blog, so thank you!

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