NUS gathers feedback from its 37,000-strong student population via the Online Student Feedback Exercise which is carried out at the end of every semester.
Why do we go through the Student Feedback Exercise, time and again, semester after semester?
Besides being a ritual that is gradually losing its meaning, the purpose of the exercise is also to improve on the teaching and educational experience delivered at our hallowed institution. It also allows the teaching staff to figure out what shortcomings they are clearly oblivious to. It explains why instead of attending lectures, students are engaging in intellectual pursuits such as researching on the definition of twerking. The system is indeed a sophisticated tool designed to safeguard the intellectual discourse of the nation for years to come.
The exercise is also a means for students to tell their professors that they are terrible under the cover of virtual anonymity. This exercise has seen a 52.3% increase in the cowardice of NUS students since its inception. Additionally, it has also accounted for a whopping 83.5% increase in insincere niceties NUS students have directed towards their professors in person.
It is strategically conducted during the peak period of the semester, when tempers are frayed and students are desperately trying to meet essay datelines. This has resulted in extremely honest, if not brutal, assessments, by students. The survey is also usually conducted before the examinations, such that professors are able to set killer papers thereafter without damaging opinions of them in the survey.
The following trends for student feedback response rates have been noticed in recent years:
1) Year 1 students have generally maintained a decently healthy participation rate of 100.5%. This participation typically decreases sharply after the second year, and dies to about 0.5% by the final year. A high student response rate is generally desired because the University wants to know that its students care about it. The University does not want to feel like a jilted lover or ahapless fundraiser along the AS3 corridor selling utterly useless knick-knacks. Students, remember the time when no one would want to do your surveys for your project work? The University has feelings too. Cold and bureaucratic as it may seem at times, there are actual living and breathing humans behind the survey questions and administrative staff eager to collate your survey responses like a child on Christmas morning receiving his presents. Be nice yo.
2) It has been observed that the most common answer given for survey questions has been “Neutral”. The University has been duly impressed by the neutrality of most students on NUS, and believes that the diplomacy showcased in this survey bodes very well indeed for the foreign relations of Singapore in future. Well done, one and all! It is amazing how despite your time-pressed schedules, each and every one of you are still capable of giving such considered and well-thought answers. Bravo!
3) A noticeable trend also is the use of “NA” in open-ended questions, for instance, in questions like “What are the teacher’s strengths?” or “What improvements would you suggest to the teacher?”. Once again, the University has been blown away by the sheer brilliance of our students at keeping responses succinct and less than the 3000 characters provided. Who needs 3000 characters when one can display true character via an “NA” response? We seek to hear and understand each of our 37,000 students, because you are all uniquely special and vitally important in your own importantly unique way and each of you are multi-talented, multi-lingual, multi-tasking, multi-vitamin. As such, we have put our resources made available by Everybody Riady Foundation to good use by dispatching a 500-strong research team to decipher the meaning of “NA”. Your opinions truly matter to us.
4) Nonetheless, some feedback responses and comments could be more informative about the quality of teaching and quality of modules. While the majority of comments have been constructive, some comments are too vague and others leave remarks that are irrelevant to the content, design, or delivery of the module concerned. Some examples of feedback that are less helpful tend to be along the following lines:
- “I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL!!! You… wreck-eck-eck meeee. You… wreck-eck-eck meeee.”
- “If I could rearrange the alphabet, I’d put U and I together. ? Call me at 9*** ****”
- “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!”
In order to increase the participation rates for the feedback exercise, the University has instituted the following changes to the Student Feedback system
1) Instead of a mere 100 bid points as an incentive for participating in the feedback, the University will reward students with an opportunity to do more surveys as further incentive. Students will just have to pick 4 out of 8 additional surveys to do following the completion of the Online Student Feedback Survey, and these surveys range from trivial topics like “Financial Accountability in NUS” to life-changing ones that actually matter like “The Best Yo Mama Jokes”. To top it all off, there will be a final 50 question feedback about the entire survey process. There will be an estimated 300-400 survey questions in total, of which about half are open-ended ones with compulsory answers required. The estimated time taken would only be about 5 minutes. Your opinion is unique and it matters.
2) There will also be new teaching award categories opened up in order to recognise the diverse teaching techniques employed by the faculty staff. This will also ensure that lecturers cannot just rely on a sense of humour or screening funny videos in lecture to win a teaching award. Nominations will be opened for the following categories:
- The YOLO Award for the lecturer with the most swag
- The All-Rounder Award for the lecturer with the biggest beer belly
- The Best Hair Award for the lecturer with the funkiest hairstyle/wisest-looking beard
- The Smoke Without Fire Award for the lecturer who speaks with the most conviction
3) Finally, we will be appointing a number of ambassadors to reinforce the importance of the exercise. Since NUS pageant winners have for the longest time been deprived of the attention and glamour they truly deserve, the University will enlist their help as spokespersons for the Feedback Exercise in a manner that is not self-indulgent or excessive. Even though the pageant winners might have to get used to this attention, the University believes that such self-sacrificial actions on the part of our beacons of shining light will lead the student masses in an inexorable march towards an unparalleled glory that is found in greater student participation in the Feedback Exercise.
Your feedback matters to the University, to the Department, and to the faculty member. There is follow up, and follow through and follow-dunno-go-where. Your feedback goes a long way in shaping teaching and the standards of teaching at NUS. I would like to encourage all students to take time to leave constructive feedback for the modules you have read.
We are, after all, oneNUS and unified as aNUS.
This article is written by Derek Wong from NUSSU The Ridge Magazine, as part of a collaboration between Digital Senior and NUSSU The Ridge Magazine.