Taking the pulse of your students’ learning and wellbeing – Bruce Johnson

With changes to learning channels, student life and life in general in the wake of COVID-19, it has never been more important to seek input from students to ensure that they are safe, well, enjoying their course and achieving learning outcomes. As students and staff adapt to new ways of learning, you will be considering how to gain early warning of student wellbeing and learning challenges:

Using evasys to introduce an early, short and sharp Student Pulse Survey around week 3 of a semester allows you to:

  • quickly check students’ experiences of their learning, so that appropriate teaching delivery adjustments can be made; and

  • identify students “at risk” i.e. are having their learning or wellbeing disproportionately impacted.

How can evasys help?

An academic researcher experienced in student survey design was commissioned to produce a set of potential questions that institutions may wish to consider. Whilst the main focus is module level surveys, question sets at programme level (i.e. one survey per student) was also produced. Please see Appendix A.

Identification of Students at Risk

A traditional anonymous survey can be run for either individual modules or at programme level. However, through running a confidential survey – where the data is not shared with teaching staff but evasys knows the identity of the respondent – it is possible to positively identify students that may require assistance. An example communication to students is shown in Appendix B.

Practical Application

This is a normal evasys survey. Standard Instant Feedback Reports can be distributed to Module or Programme Leaders to evaluate the teaching approach and proactively make adjustments. evasys tools can be used to aggregate data to gauge student sentiment.

However, beyond this, for confidential surveys conducted at module level, it is possible to aggregate responses to all questions across all modules to produce an aggregated response indicator; similarly, for responses at programme level (or focus on the response to the specific well-being question). Students failing to respond (to any modules) can also be identified.

Accessible to approved users only, evasys can generate a list of students or, alternatively, anonymised IDs, with their aggregated response indicator if below an institutionally defined benchmark. The institution can then manage follow-up actions – for example, notifying a Personal Tutor or the Student Wellbeing Team that proactive contact with each student would be advisable.

Additional contextual data about a student can be added – for example, whether a new or continuing student, which can then be aggregated. Similarly, contextual data about each module – for example the nature of the teaching and learning activities.

There may be some internal tensions or confidentiality concerns around this approach. However, used positively in the context of student wellbeing, a pulse survey provides institutions with the opportunity to proactively engage with students as individuals to support their academic and personal success.

Benefits Summary

An evasys Student Pulse Survey will help you to:

  • Check the wellbeing and engagement of students as individuals

  • Identify at-risk students with the option for them to reach out for help at any time

  • Evaluate how academic experience, wellbeing and perceptions of communications are impacting students

  • Identify challenges with module delivery individually or at programme level

  • Act on rapid intelligence about students’ perceptions of the new models of delivery that have been put in place since the outbreak of the pandemic

  • Produce real time results, including free-text analysis

  • Compare findings across the university

  • Plot trends over time and link improvements to the actions taken

  • Include the student voice in planning and decision making 

evasys Support

We are here to assist you in any way we can. There are various options available to perform the aggregation across all questions and subsequent linkage into institutional data sets, depending on the institutional approach to access to the information and potential manner of distribution. Key to efficient production is the use of a single evasys questionnaire (survey).

Student Pulse Survey

Potential Question Set

Appendix A


An institution may elect to issue a single Pulse Survey per student; however, most institutions are likely to undertake Student Pulse Surveys at module level. Two question sets for each scenario are suggested – one very short and sharp, the other with one more question and an open (free text) question.

A five-point Likert scale is recommended, Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree (reflecting the NSS approach).

surveys to Monitor Learning and Wellbeing - likert scale

Question Set | Survey for each module on which a student is enrolled

Four scaled questions; one open question

  1. I am confident I can succeed in this module
  2. I feel connected with other students and teaching staff on this module
  3. I believe I am contributing to and engaging effectively with the module (for instance, participating in discussions and other learning activities)
  4. At this stage in the module, I understand how my learning will be assessed on this module
  5. What one thing can we do better to improve your experience on this module? [Open Question]


Question Set | Survey per student

Eight scaled questions; one open question

  1. I am confident I can succeed
  2. I feel connected with other students and teaching staff
  3. I believe I am contributing to and engaging effectively on my modules (for instance, participating in discussions and other learning activities)
  4. I understand how my learning will be assessed
  5. I know how to access online or remote support for my health, safety and wellbeing at the university
  6. I am on top of my wellbeing: physically, mentally, financially
  7. I am content the University is doing the best it can to support me in my studies during this period
  8. What one thing can we do better to improve your experience? [Open question]

Question Set | Survey per student

Three scaled questions

  1. I am on top of my well-being: physically, mentally, financially
  2. If I feel overwhelmed, I know who to contact
  3. I usually feel I am making good progress with my university work

Scale: 5pt Likert

5pt Likert scale Using Pulse Surveys to Monitor Learning and Wellbeing

Student Pulse Survey

Potential Style of Communication for Module Surveys

Appendix B

Subject: Student Pulse Survey

You are invited to share your feedback on the modules you are studying.

As a University, we are dedicated to helping all students achieve their potential. We remain committed to proactively supporting your academic and personal success during and subsequent to the COVID-19 pandemic. The issues and topics that are important to you are important to us.

The Student Pulse Survey allows us to find out about your learning in each module since the move to a [blended learning /remote, online] model. The feedback you provide will allow your Module Leader to ensure that the module is meeting the intended learning objectives. It will also contribute to the continual improvement of the module. We will use your responses to help us adapt to your needs and to stay focused on your overall success.

As well as supporting your academic success, supporting your wellbeing is also very important to us. Your feedback will provide us with the opportunity to reach out to students who might need some extra support.

Your responses to this survey are confidential and will be aggregated across all your modules. This aggregated response will not be shared with your teaching staff but where it indicates that you may need more support, it will be passed confidentially to the [student support team or Personal Tutor] so that they can proactively contact you. Your wellbeing remains at the forefront of all our activities.

Please complete the following surveys: [evasys Survey URLs via mail merge process]

Your Privacy Rights

We process your personal data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK Data Protection Act 2018. For more information about how we protect your rights in compliance with these laws, see our [University Data Protection Policy], and [the Student Privacy Notice].

The Student Pulse Survey has been designed to respect the privacy rights of our students and to ensure that your personal information is only processed by us for your direct benefit and in ways that you would reasonably expect as a student of this University. However, if you have any concerns about how it operates in respect of your privacy rights, please contact us at [insert relevant email address]

You can also make a request to access your personal data. More information on how do to this can be found here [link to institutional privacy policy/procedure].

Bruce Johnson MD EvaSys UK closeup

Bruce Johnson is the Managing Director at evasys and has 20+ years of experience working within both large and small UK universities, including 14 years heading Student Systems at a Russell Group University. 

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