What it takes to make effective surveys

People may say there are no right or wrong ways to make a survey, but there are effective and ineffective ways. Finding the balance revolves around two simple questions:

  • What is your desired outcome?
  • How do you want to measure it?

Defining your desired outcomes

Outcomes are what you want to learn. Think of them as greater questions you want answers to, and the more specific the questions, the better the feedback and the more you will learn.

Probably the most common outcome is to know whether people liked your course, but finding out isn’t as simple as asking “did you like the course?” Some people may like the curriculum, others the price. You have to ask the right questions to meet your desired outcomes and to understand why you got the feedback did.

Speaking of questions, you should limit your surveys to around 5 questions. Statistically, shorter surveys get more in-depth feedback, which means you learn more from your surveys and outcomes.

Measuring your desired outcomes

Your outcome and questions will get you your feedback, but how do you want it? Opinions, numbers ... your choice of outcome measurements controls the exact type of feedback you will receive.

There are three major types of outcome measurement for surveys:

  • Open-ended (short answers and opinions)
  • Rating (assigning a numeric value to something)
  • Ranking (showing order of importance or preference)

Open-ended questions give you the best individual feedback, because it gives the person the chance to write out their opinions. However, you will have to read each response personally to reap the benefits of the feedback, and that can be very time consuming.

Ratings allow you to gather an average opinion from everyone that completes the survey, making it easy to consume tons of feedback quickly. However, some people have a difficult time measuring their opinions with numbers, meaning your feedback will never be as accurate as with open-ended questions.

Rankings are the middle ground, where someone can rate things based on a comparison to others things, instead of with numbers. It’s important to remember that the things you want people to rank need to be related, or people will have a difficult time responding to the question.

The best strategy is to use a combination of all three measures. By having different types of measurement, you receive diverse feedback that can show some aspects of your outcome quickly with numbers, and others with greater detail through opinions.

Successful Survey Examples

Now that we have covered what it takes to make an effective survey, let’s talk about some strong examples related to continuing education. Each of the example surveys have very specific outcomes and employ multiple measurement types.

Heads up, these surveys weren’t made on Table Mesa, but they could have been. Our Course Builder allows you to include customized surveys anywhere in your courses, and also manages and organizes the feedback for you. To learn more about the Course Builder and using your Table Mesa feedback, check out our User reviews have never had more power article.

Survey: Where can my course be improved?

Survey: What can I do to make you take more courses with me?

Survey: How can continuing education be made better for you?