A blended approach to student feedback

In the UK, the National Student Survey (NSS) is used to give students a voice; it provides them with the opportunity to provide feedback on their higher education experience. The promise is that it will enable them to “help shape the future for (their) fellow students, and help those considering higher education decide where and what to study”. More than 4 million students have had their say and over 407 institutions are eligible.

Student Feedback

The limitations of annual, reflective student surveys

The NSS provides valuable feedback and insight, but there is a problem. It’s an annual, reflective survey – that is, it provides a snapshot in time, after the event. It may benefit “future students” but what about the students who are providing the feedback? The opportunity to provide input has come too late for them. So, is the NSS fit for purpose?

Yes, it is – as part of a feedback “toolbox”. We’re not advocating junking the NSS, or other comparable national surveys conducted in other countries, but we are advocating a blended approach where the national survey is a tool in the toolbox rather than the toolbox itself.

A different approach to student satisfaction

A lengthy, annual survey that asks students to reflect on their experience in higher education isn’t the only way to collect feedback. It isn’t even the best way.

If you want to identify what’s working and what’s not in real-time, the NSS is of limited value. In this situation, a real-time feedback solution is needed. Consider Warwick University (the UK’s Sunday Times University of the Year 2015) as an example. Warwick use touchscreen kiosks to collect feedback in real-time, 24/7, all year long. These surveys provide Warwick with a continuous flow of intelligence, helping the University to regularly refine and improve its offering and maintain its position in the UK’s University league tables.

This brings us back to the second objective of the NSS – to “help those considering higher education decide where and what to study”.

Mark Potter, the University of Warwick’s Head of Service Delivery, commented:

We want to understand the entire student journey, and immediate feedback is key. Accurate and swift gathering of feedback in our cafes, bars, restaurants and shops is embedded in our continuous improvement programme, giving us a wealth of data which we are using to drive ongoing improvements

Mark Potter, University of Warwick’s Head of Service Delivery Tweet

The University of Warwick maintains a constant focus on the student experience, capturing feedback that is immediate and timely. This enables them to address issues as they arise rather than months later as is the case with annual, reflective surveys. Given the proven links between student satisfaction, recruitment and financial performance, the ability to identify and resolve sources of student dissatisfaction when they occur is a service differentiator.

The same approach can also be applied to courses. Tutors can use feedback to gauge understanding, modify their approach, as required, and to adjust the flow of the class – all with the goal of maximising learning and academic performance.

The benefits of real-time surveys for students feedback

We’ve seen that real-time feedback solutions give the ability to identify and resolve sources of student dissatisfaction when they occur. But they also offer other advantages in comparison to the traditional, reflective feedback approach:

  1. Greater accuracy. Gartner research has shown that feedback gathered in real-time is up to 40% more accurate when compared with feedback captured as little as 24 hours after the event to which it relates. Accuracy and reliability of feedback is, of course, a critical consideration if you’re going to use the data to make decisions that will affect the service you provide to students.
  2. Higher response rates. You can expect to capture up to 12% more responses using real-time solutions as opposed to reflective ones.
  3. Simplification. You can simplify long questions through the use of icons and images with touch screen kiosks.
  4. Intelligence. Intelligent routing can be used to ensure that the next question asked takes account of the answer just given, thus avoiding frustrating the respondent who may otherwise decide to abandon the survey.
  5. Meta-data. Meta-data such as location and time can automatically be recorded when using smart devices to capture real-time feedback.
  6. Real-time responsiveness. Real-time solutions typically come with real-time reporting dashboards and live alerts which means you can monitor trends and respond to issues with next to no lag.
  7. Always-on. Kiosks can be left on 24/7 capturing responses at unsociable hours and when no staff are present.

The benefits of supplementing annual surveys with real-time feedback

Wrapping it all up, you can use real-time feedback solutions to supplement national surveys like NSS. And you can also:

  • Find out what really matters to your students
  • Increase student response rates
  • Respond to issues in real-time to remove sources of dissatisfaction
  • Show your students that you’re listening and acting on what you hear (“you said, we did”)
  • Measure KPI performance
  • Measure and improve your NPS (Net Promoter Scores) performance. The University of Warwick increased theirs by 15 points after they introduced our real-time feedback kiosks.

About ViewPoint feedback solutions

ViewPoint helps organisations to radically improve the quality of their services. Our interactive feedback technology engages with customers, employees and stakeholders to understand their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the experience they encountered.

Our unique smiley face surveys attract, engage, and encourage users to leave their thoughts. Four reasons feedback kiosks are the preferred feedback collection method:

  • Lower cost customer survey solution
  • Suitable for all environments
  • Reliable and always on
  • Highly accurate insights


Find out more about how real-time surveys can help you assess customer and staffing issues, monitor improvements, and compare departments to deliver the best service possible.


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