The evolution of evasys – the transformational journey of London Metropolitan University

A fragmented beginning to surveys and evaluation

London Metropolitan University first deployed evasys as its survey and evaluation tool in 2019, initially within its Academic Quality & Development department and managed by a part-time office administrator while the team got to grips with what might be possible. It is now an integral part of the university’s Centre for Equity and Inclusion, with a full-time officer leading their array of surveys.

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Only two survey types were managed with evasys initially, the University Survey and the Module Evaluation surveys

The University Survey was issued to all students at the beginning of each academic year. The survey had more than 100 questions and no form logic, resulting in low response rates – between 9% and 12% on average. Many of the questions didn’t provide data of any real institutional value due to limited survey management resource and a lack of applicability or relevance to the survey population – for example, questions relating to student services for students who had only just started and hadn’t used the service enough to give useful feedback on it.

The Module Evaluation surveys were contained within the 5 Schools. This approach resulted in a huge amount of manual work to extract meaningful information from evasys and distribute it to staff after the survey closed. Institutionally, it wasn’t possible to provide details on individual module response rates, resulting in lack of staff ownership of the survey process. The platform wasn’t being used to the full potential of its functionality.

There was no institutional policy or standards on survey design and delivery, resulting in a range of tools being deployed across various departments to gather feedback from students. Google Forms, Survey Monkey and a marketing CRM system were just some of the solutions in play to facilitate surveys, resulting in a disparate survey experience for students and lack of co-ordinated and integrated insights being available to the university.

A solid foundation for a survey ecosystem

With a renewed focus on enhancements to student engagement, London Met started looking at existing survey processes and how they could be improved.

An initial step was to simplify the “University Survey” with the aim of improving response rates. This was broken down into two separate surveys, one issued in welcome week and focusing on enrolment and the other issued at the end of year to gather feedback on all services and departments. Both surveys were managed within evasys, with immediate impact – survey response rates increased to around 20%.

The success of this initial piece of work provided strong indications of the actual capabilities of the existing evasys system. Furthermore, new features within the solution that hadn’t previously been deployed at London Met offered the scope for even more intelligence and analysis of captured data.

For the October 2021 module evaluation surveys, a number of steps were implemented to maximise on the data collected:

  • Module Leaders were linked to the modules they were responsible for
  • The evasys Instructor Portal was made available to all staff, and they received training on how to use it
  • An automated email was sent to each Module Leader on survey opening, with good practice guidance on engaging with the survey process
  • Reports were emailed automatically immediately on survey closure
  • Text and visual HTML display for student emails were refreshed, and the “look and feel” of the module survey was revamped
  • Post survey closure, central and school-wide analysis was produced
  • A pilot of the evasys qualitative analytics features that generate survey sentiment against free-text comments was made available to Module Leaders and departmental staff
  • Communications from evasys and the university were completely overhauled to encourage Module Leaders to “own” their own surveys
How evasys transformed London Met’s approach to survey feaured

As an institution, London Met took the decision to further develop its evasys solution into an ‘ecosystem’ for student engagement and survey actions, led by Academic Quality & Development (AQD).  The institution added new components to the system, including Closing the Loop, Instructor Portal and dashboards, while integrating evasys with both the myday student app and the Blackboard virtual learning environment (VLE).

The Turning Point

The results from October 2021 module evaluations were the turning point for London Met – the institutional response rate saw a massive increase on the previous year, from 15% in 20/21 to 35.87%. A combination of the power and potential offered by evasys, coupled with new institutional ownership of the entire survey process, resulted in very quick wins being achieved.

The data insights were a huge game-changer, introducing self-selecting questions and the ability to provide detailed breakdowns of student satisfaction. The institution had never had this kind of data before, nor had staff at a local level.

Senior management was impressed. With the results achieved, London Met took the decision to abandon all other survey tools and focus on building an ecosystem centred on evasys as the system where all data was held, and subsequently ensured that a standard approach was put in place as to how students were surveyed.

Winning hearts and minds

With the switch to the evasys survey ecosystem, and the initial results achieved, buy-in to, and engagement with, the new approach to surveys started to take off among various teams within the institution.

The London Met marketing team didn’t renew their Survey Monkey licence, as its functionality couldn’t match what evasys offered. Instead, marketing worked with AQD to bolster and support evasys automated communication and engagement tools. For example, call to action emails through the CRM using the evasys links were used to promote the university wide Closing the Loop results from institutional surveys such as the welcome week and end of year feedback from students.

It didn’t stop there. Other teams within the university approached the student engagement team for support across a range of surveys, including:

  • Library: surveys on different aspects of the library service, allowing students to provide feedback after each academic term, promoted through staff email signatures and signs displayed around the library. The use of evasys QR codes and a passive approach to a year-long, open survey also provided a robust quality assurance tool.

  • Academic Research: a survey was undertaken around student optimism and used the evasys scoring plug-in to allow a cohort of students to receive an optimism score which was then paired with academic outcomes and EDI characteristics to shape a research project led by one of the schools. This project became published research, as well as a core part on one particular subject area’s research work, and has been internationally recognised.

  • Race Equity: the university had a requirement to run surveys as part of its work in achieving Race Equity Charter and evasys was used to develop a student and staff survey.

  • Ad-hoc Surveys: multiple departments use evasys to facilitate ad-hoc surveys within the university to support key pieces of work, such as Student Union council elections, student volunteer reviews, student services reviews, staff review on institutional CPED programmes and to review participant satisfaction with institutional conferences such as Learning & Teaching and Student Voice conferences.

So, not only were “official” student engagement surveys and module evaluation being run through evasys, a diverse range of other institutional surveys were also migrating to the new ecosystem.

Having a central point of contact that staff teams could liaise with to support this work was absolutely fundamental, as it ensured that surveys were managed appropriately in terms of timelines, avoiding clashes and making sure no one participant group was being over-surveyed. That institutional oversight and the ability to horizon scan and see the bigger picture was key to the success of the survey ecosystem.

Continuing the journey with a thriving survey ecosystem

Uptake of evasys use within London Met speaks for itself in terms of usability and results; however, there are more wide-ranging benefits positively impacting London Met.

All data within London Met is now located securely within one system and can’t be lost due to incidences of people changing role or moving on.

There is institution-wide standardisation of surveys, as all surveys are overseen by the evasys institutional Business Lead, who provides input to survey design and ensures data outputs at survey end are fit for purpose – and fit for any future purposes.

Staff now have a clear process and systematic approach to building, managing, issuing and analysing surveys, ensuring that data gathering and comparison across modules, departments, schools, cohorts and the whole institution is easily achievable. There has been a cultural shift, as university staff can clearly see the value in evasys and how it helps them to achieve institutional aims. This includes how it can support module evaluation, quality enhancement, APP activity and create a more equitable student experience through data-driven insights on specific student cohorts.

The use of evasys’ Closing the Loop feature has had a significant impact on improving staff and university-wide ownership and communication around how feedback is being acted upon – and this is also much clearer for students. Going beyond a simple email, to producing guidance and documentation – for example, using the end of year survey to produce a report for the next academic year that is distributed to all students as part of welcome week – is an extra step in the institutional approach to capturing and acting on the student voice.

During the first year of using Closing the Loop, over 850 modules received student feedback and more than 86% received a Closing the Loop report within two weeks of survey closure. Closing the Loop on the welcome and end of year surveys ensured that all 10,000+ students received a response from the university on the key takeaways and actions from their feedback on institutional services – even if they didn’t participate in the survey. And user experience for students and staff alike has been greatly improved through a clear and consistent approach to surveys.

The wider impact of using evasys as the central survey platform

The investment in this robust survey ecosystem has had advantages not solely linked to surveys and student voice.

In addition to the value and insights gained internally, improvements to the student experience through data-driven insights, enhanced communication from closing the loop and greater staff ownership of surveys have combined to allow London Met to drive improved results in the National Student Survey (NSS).

In the academic year 2018/19, London Met reached the NSS reporting threshold in twelve weeks, with high levels of telephone contact by Ipsos MORI fieldworkers, with an overall satisfaction rate of 76%.

Now in 2023 London Met reached the NSS reporting threshold in three weeks, with high levels of telephone contact by Ipsos MORI fieldworkers, reaching a response rate of 85%

Since the change in culture that started with the transformation of approach to surveys, there was a year-on-year improvement for the next three NSS campaigns:

  • Overall satisfaction increased to 82% by 2022

  • Overall participation reached 84% – one of the highest rates in the sector

  • The reporting threshold was reached within 2-3 weeks in each year, dramatically reducing Ipsos MORI fieldwork calls to students

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