This note compares the various modes of collecting student feedback at colleges at the end of the term, with that of onEdu. Take it with a pinch of salt, as this may be a bit biased coming from the developer of onEdu. But it does allow one to review the available methods and consider each of them before selecting one of them for use at their college. The comparison includes the cost, effort required and ease of use for the three phases of student feedback collection, analysis and reporting. 
 
The predominant methods that we have seen in use are:
  1. Manual method using pen and paper
  2. In-house built software
  3. Google Documents
  4. Popular survey freeware like survey monkey and 
  5. onEdu
 
Manual Mode:
The age old method of collecting feedback from students on a paper form at the end of the last class for a subject by the faculty is by far still the most popular method today. Many colleges actually have an independent department responsible for feedback collection and analysis. The department prepares all the data sheets required (subject/faculty combination) for each of the subjects and sections at the college and requests the students to fill up the form manually. Data from the sheets goes into a spreadsheet like MS Excel as raw data to be further analysed. 
Disadvantages:
  • The activity is very labour intensive and hence expensive
  • Errors can creep in during data collection, entry and analysis
  • Elective subjects offered to students can make this activity complex
  • Time taken for analysis is high making the whole exercise redundant 
  • Students are concerned about the anonymity
 
In-house built software:
A few proactive colleges, having realised the problems with manual mode, have had their faculty and/or students develop a custom software for this purpose. Students can login to this custom built software, or use random PINs (for anonymity) and provide their feedback on the subject/faculty. Faculty can login to the portal and review the feedback from their students. While this is much better than other methods discussed above, the disadvantages are:
  • Software needs to be maintained professionally to ensure reliability, security and privacy. Students and faculty may be able to complete the development of such software as a project, but they usually are not excited about maintenance of the software. 
  • Students eventually graduate out and faculty move on to other activities, leaving the software without maintenance or support
  • Changes to software can be difficult to do without the original developers or professional documentation. As your business processes change over time, software becomes redundant and unusable
  • Students are cautious as they are not confident of the anonymity promise 
 
Google Docs and Forms:
Google provides free apps to educational institutions with absolutely no usage limits. Microsoft has also started providing Office 360 applications for free to educational institutions. Some enterprising faculty have developed google forms that can be used to collect student data. The forms are easy to fill for the students, can be made anonymous and this makes data collection easier. However, the disadvantages are:
  • Takes up too much time and effort to setup (which student gets to fill feedback for which faculty and subject)
  • Elective subjects offered to students can make this activity complex
  • Raw data collected in spreadsheets, but no usable reports are available by default
  • No easy way of sharing the analysed feedback with faculty in a secure way
 
Popular Survey freeware:
Several online software providers such as Survey Monkey have followed a freemium model where in certain limited set of features are provided for free, for a given number of users. Questionnaires can be defined and invitations for responses are sent by email. Anonymity can also be maintained, and the vendors also provide canned reports that are readily available. However, the disadvantages are:
  • Takes up too much time and effort to setup (which student gets to fill feedback for which faculty and subject)
  • Elective subjects offered to students can make this activity complex
  • Reports are not custom developed for college context
  • No easy way of sharing the analysed feedback with faculty in a secure way
 
onEdu:
onEdu is a comprehensive campus management software and includes a student feedback module with excellent reporting capabilities. The software can be deployed as a college branded portal with in hours and data conversion programs allow you to upload the college data in no time. 
 
  • You build your questionnaire; custom questions for lab subjects; projects; or have college level questions in the feedback
  • Absolute anonymity giving your students the confidence they need to give you frank and objective feedback
  • Your base setup data is already fed in by us; all the work is done for you
  • All you do is shepherd your students into the computer labs one section at a time and then collect feedback
  • Personalised reports for each faculty are immediately available
  • College level dashboards for Principal are immediately available
  • Department level dashboards for HODs are immediately available
  • In fact it is so easy that you can actually do multiple feedbacks in a semester; allow your faculty to tailor the teaching as per the students’ feedback
  • Complete data can be downloaded for further analysis in statistics
  • Historical trend reports are available for further decision making
  • Built on open standards and hosted on Amazon cloud, the best cloud hosting service in the world
  • personalised reports delivered to faculty on their mobile app (android, iOS)
 
Are there any disadvantages? Not that we know of today, but why don’t you try and let us know. We continuously add new features to the software every month and may be able to include your recommendation for your next feedback cycle. 
 
So you choose, the current available systems that are too cumbersome, error prone, take too much time and do not inspire confidence or onEdu, which is easy to use, provides you with instantaneous and personalised results, and gives you complete peace of mind - with a professional software development organisation backing it up all the time. 
 
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We believe tablets have a transformational power that was hitherto not available in the computing world. Their impact will be huge on the education sector. Some of the stand out features of tablets are:
- easy to carry, much easier than carrying a laptop
- long battery life, can be charged once per day 
- intuitive user interface
- computing power on par with regular laptops
- affordable, much economical compared to a laptop

Any tablet success stories at schools/colleges to share?

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The now famous facebook app exercise at Stanford is in stark contrast to what is being taught at engineering and business schools in India. Courses based on concepts drawn from the industry and research dominate the class work in the top schools of USA.  Coursework in Indian Universities is still based on textbooks designed some decades ago.

In a recent conversation with a Carnegie Mellon graduate turned entrepreneur, I listened to him express his frustration with the fact that the basic metullurgy taught in some of the best engineering undergraduate programs in India is still the same as it was about 30 years ago! How come? What good is it? Even a not so "sexy" subject as metullurgy has gone through a sea change in the last 10-15 years. But our students are ill equipped to handle the latest given that they are learning some old technology concepts - even considering that they may be learning it better than anyone else in the world,  it is pretty useless. 

As long as our professional education remains in the clutches of lethargic Universities and beaurecratic AICTE's regulated environment, we cannot expect such innovation in our schools.  Thank fully, there are a few who are challenging the system and trying to create students that can "think". International School of Engineering, Hyderabad is one such. Wish them good luck and would like to see more of them.

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The now famous facebook app exercise at Stanford is in stark contrast to what is being taught at engineering and business schools in India. Courses based on concepts drawn from the industry and research dominate the class work in the top schools of USA.  Coursework in Indian Universities is still based on textbooks designed some decades ago.

In a recent conversation with a Carnegie Mellon graduate turned entrepreneur, I listened to him express his frustration with the fact that the basic metullurgy taught in some of the best engineering undergraduate programs in India is still the same as it was about 30 years ago! How come? What good is it? Even a not so "sexy" subject as metullurgy has gone through a sea change in the last 10-15 years. But our students are ill equipped to handle the latest given that they are learning some old technology concepts - even considering that they may be learning it better than anyone else in the world,  it is pretty useless. 

As long as our professional education remains in the clutches of lethargic Universities and beaurecratic AICTE's regulated environment, we cannot expect such innovation in our schools.  Thank fully, there are a few who are challenging the system and trying to create students that can "think". International School of Engineering, Hyderabad is one such. Wish them good luck and would like to see more of them.

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The so called "demographic dividend" of India, with its burgeoning population, can only be achieved when a significant percentage of the citizens are able to participate in the process of nation building and at an individual level are capable of handling themselves rather than expect the government to bail them out with "goodies". As long as the government continues the "goodies" policy of doling out free stuff to the rural and poor, it leaves them with no capacity building skills. If the 8% growth rates are to continue beyond the next few years, we can ill afford not to focus on this aspect. 

Just as a venture capitalist would not want to fund just the operational needs of a startup, but would probably be interested in capacity building of an organization - the government should focus more on how the freebies they give out can actually improve the capacity of individuals to earn a living and eventually contribute to nation building, not just meet their current needs of survival. 

In the wake of technology led revolution in devising new learning models, most excuses for not accomplishing universal literacy and "people skilling" fall by the wayside. Now that we have figured out the potential of e-learning and how to deliver it to larger audiences, how do we make it more accessible and useful for the millions of kids in the rural and tribal areas who do not have access to quality education? What do we need to make this happen? In my opinion, the following four - 
1. Good quality e-learning material
2. Reliable delivery mechanism
3. Curious minds and opportunity to employ them for learning
4. Above all, a focused initiative to make it happen

We can make nice e-learning content that will more than do the job. There is plenty of it on the net already for reuse. Khan academy is one such offering from the private sector that stands out for its simplicity and quality of content for the primary schools. Indian Government initiative, NPTEL, is another great initiative that levels the playing ground for all students of higher education. e-learning to some extent can solve the problem of lack of quality faculty to meet the demands of the nation. The few good faculty and the current state of e-learning technologies can be effectively leveraged to take good quality classrooms to every nook and corner of the country.

Let us look at the delivery mechanism. In India, we already have a good telecommunication network to support such activity. Another piece of infrastructure that completes the delivery mechanism  is the end instrument that enables the interactive e-learning activity. These instruments are cheaper by the day, and come with increased capabilities every month. I am sure a good PPP initiative can actually enable most kids to have an instrument for free, very quickly. 

Curious minds - well they are a given for every child in any part of the world.  We do not need to be concerned about this aspect. But yes, we should be concerned about giving these curious minds an opportunity to explore. Child labour, despite being banned by legal systems, is still prevalent and robs the children of their opportunity to learn in a structured learning environment. But again, nothing that cannot be surmounted with a focused effort by roping in NGOs and the existing government resources. 

So what is stopping us today? The fourth piece - a focused initiative by the government to make this happen. There have been many initiatives by the well intentioned government, but they have all fallen ill of times for various reasons. Governments come and go, policies change and initiatives are forgotten. But this is an initiative that can define the way India progresses over the next 30 to 50 years. Call it inclusive growth, or by any other political and management jargon - we can ill afford to lose this big picture.

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