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Gathering data with Google forms

February 25, 2010

There are several kinds of anonymous data gathering activities you might want to carry out with students during the course of a semester, inside the classroom or out.

  • Determine class demographics
  • Choose which activity to do next
  • Survey opinions on an issue
  • Check background knowledge on a topic
  • Conduct an early course evaluation

Google provides a very flexible tool for gathering data – and all you need is a plain old free Google account! From the Google Docs screen, choose “Create New” > “Form”. Select the type of question you want and fill in the blanks. After entering questions you are ready to collect the data. At the bottom of the screen is a web page address you can send people, OR choose “More Actions” > “Embed” to get the code that allows you to add the survey to a page in Concourse – just like you would add a YouTube video or a calendar.

Fill out a  sample form and see the results

In the example I allowed you to see a summary, but that is optional. As the creator of the form, you would also have access to a Google spreadsheet with all of the data points. You can also export the results to an Excel file. Another benefit of this kind of form is that you can have a large number of respondents.

On the down side, you can’t stop people submitting a form more than once. Depending on the circumstances, you could ask for an identifier to help weed out unintended duplicates. And if you use Google Apps, you can choose to record the email addresses of people who fill out the form.

Here are some other options for data gathering and surveys

  1. Concourse survey (assessments tool) – built in, limited to your class
  2. PollEverywhere – respond with cell phone, PDA, laptop
  3. Survey Monkey – designed for surveys

Options 2 and 3 are free at a basic level, but charge for large numbers of respondents and more advanced features. I plan to write more about Poll Everywhere in a future article.

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