The online survey: An efficient and effective means of engineering graduate student assessment

Padhye L., Goktas R., Kurt Z.

2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Austin, TX, United States Of America, 14 - 17 June 2009 identifier

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume:
  • City: Austin, TX
  • Country: United States Of America
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


A survey is a potent tool for assessing student needs and concerns to improve an engineering graduate program as demonstrated by recent, documented survey studies conducted in an environmental engineering graduate program. We extended the work done in prior studies employing paper surveys by conducting an online student assessment for the first time in the program history. With regard to survey design and analysis methods, we mostly adopted the methods established in the prior studies. The online format was adopted primarily to increase the accessibility of the survey to students in our graduate program. Other benefits of the online format include a more efficient distribution process and an increased ability to preserve confidentiality in comparison to the paper format. The online format also allowed us to compile and analyze data with greater ease. In addition, conducting the online survey was cost-effective. The use of the survey online client required only a minimal cost and eliminated the relatively large stationery costs associated with paper surveys. Along with recognizing the advantages, we had to navigate potential obstacles associated with online surveying, such as ensuring that a respondent is able to complete the survey only once with uncompromised confidentiality and achieving a high response rate with limited personal interaction. The survey was received well by students, achieving a high response rate (>72%) and garnering positive student feedback. Academic concerns perceived by students in the program with regard to a seminar course in our program, graduate coursework, and student-advisor relationships were identified and presented to the faculty. Some of the areas of discontent identified were the limited number of graduate classes offered in the program and the specificity of the seminar course directed only towards a small portion of the student population. In most cases, we believe that the online survey provided more accurate data than did the previous paper surveys. However, in some cases, data such as those from student-advisor relationship questions appear to have been affected by biases also present in the paper surveys. The online administration of the survey provided numerous advantages, suggesting that it is a more preferable surveying method over the paper survey and will likely be implemented in future program assessments. This study can act as a model for other programs looking for efficient and effective assessment of their academic needs and concerns. To that end, we discuss our online survey method, how we considered the advantages and potential drawbacks of online surveying, and the significance of our survey findings extensively in this paper. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2009.