Administration and Leadership, Columns, Patient Care

Taking the Monkey Business Out for Student Surveys

To effectively plan education for adult learners it is important to determine their perceived education needs. Many students are located in ambulance bases or firehouses spread out over several hundred square miles, making it difficult to distribute and retrieve needs assessment surveys that will help guide your instructional plans. Fortunately, email is an effective tool for surveying students in multiple locations.

A quality educational needs assessment most importantly involves drafting the appropriate questions. Beyond that, the work of distributing the survey, encouraging, reminding, cajoling and, OK, sometimes threatening employees or students to return them can be very time consuming. Then, when you do receive your meager returns, summarizing the data is one more burdensome task to add to the other responsibilities that every educator balances.

Help is Here!

Luckily, there are free products, such as Survey Monkey (, that can make preparation, distribution and interpretation of learning needs assessments a breeze. If you anticipate less than 100 responses and your survey needs are simple, you can sign on as a basic user at no charge. The introductory tutorial walks you through the survey design process.

When you finish the brief tutorial, you are ready to design your own survey. I was able to enter a 10-question needs assessment with short-answer, multiple-choice, multiple-answer and rating style questions in less than 30 minutes.

After you design your survey, there are several options for distribution to your learners. I saved the survey as a link that I copied and sent to our 120 employees by email. The learner simply clicks on the link, which takes them to the survey page. When the employees complete the needs assessment, they simply click submit. It is fast and easy, and it doesn t get lost in inter-office mail or shoved into someone s locker.

Within 20 minutes, I was able to go to the summary page, where the first two responses had already been electronically tallied and graphed. Our needs assessment responses increased five-fold over the previous year, and the responses enabled us to make some informed changes in our classes and our education delivery methods for the next year.

Every year the educator s workload gets heavier. This tool will help lighten your load if only for a minute!