Publication Details

This article was orignally published as Corderoy, R, Stace, R, Wills, S and Ip, A, Improving Teaching and Learning through Formative Evaluation: Using a Customised Online Tool to Collect Student Feedback, Indian Journal of Open Learning, 2000, 9(3), 423-432.


Good teachers spend time reflecting on their teaching practice. What is working, what isn't - and more importantly, why is or isn’t it? Such reflection is an essential component of maintaining and improving both teaching practice and the learning outcomes for students. Changes in current teaching practice towards more flexible teaching and learning environments and especially towards more student-centred online environments make this an even more important process. To answer this kind of question requires data which reflect the student's viewpoint on the teaching process and the time to collect and analyse it. As the subject itself is more and more likely to have some kind of online component, it is sensible to make use of the flexibility offered by an automated(??) online survey. In many institutions data on the success or otherwise of teaching and learning has been collected for teachers with one main purpose in mind: to provide the teacher with supporting information as to their teaching ability for the purposes of promotion. Often this data has a bias in its focus on the performance of the teacher, rather than the effectiveness of the pedagogies, delivery mechanisms and interactive strategies employed to provide a quality teaching and learning experience for both the teachers and the student. The Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources (CEDIR) at the University of Wollongong in association with the Multimedia Education Unit (MEU) at Melbourne University has developed an online tool to collect student feedback on these aspects of their experiences. The Subject Online Survey (SOS) is a cost and time efficient, web based system for collecting this feedback. Teachers can use it to design and author customised surveys to collect information about the success or otherwise of the subject they teach from a student viewpoint. These surveys may be completed anonymously by the students via the web (using randomly generated, survey specific numeric tokens) and the data is automatically collated and returned to the teacher. The teacher may also produce the surveys in hard copy, for manual distribution and collation. The system provides a ‘non-threatening’ and ‘informal’ mechanism by which teachers can obtain useful information about the subjects they develop and teach in terms of subject based criteria rather than the ‘teacher based criteria’ of the formal Teaching Surveys. In this time of declining University budgets, SOS provides a very cost efficient solution to the collection of this data. This paper provides a background to the development of SOS in the context of the needs of the University of Wollongong and its teachers. It briefly outlines the main features of the system and reports in detail on the outcomes for the early adopters in their teaching. Widespread use of the tool across the main campus and at our campuses at Nowra, Batemans Bay and Bega on the South Coast of New South Wales and at our Dubai campus has provided valuable recommendations for expanding and improving the system. We outline some of these new features being added to Version 2 including; faculty specific databases, online teacher feedback and the provision of ‘standard’ survey sets.