To complete or not to complete? A student’s perspective on taking surveys at UofT

To complete or not to complete? A student’s perspective on taking surveys at UofT

by Caroline Nguyen

Recall a day when you walk into your room with a big sigh of relief that your day has just ended. To your dismay, the minute you open your computer you soon realize that there are a dozen of other minor errands nagging onto you for attention: an e-mail from your registrar about course selections and tuition; a message from your T.A. who reminds you of an assignment due in two days; your boss wonders whether you are able to come in for an extra shift; and family who expect an update on your day-to-day life at the University of Toronto.  This is a small non-exhaustive list of the myriad of mini-tasks that sit on your desktop. You are never truly done with your day.

In the midst of your cluttered e-mail, you find advertisements, subscription e-mails, spams, and the well-known UofT surveys. Students are more and more occupied with activities beyond the scope of 5 courses. Today, we are trying to juggle family, work, school, entertainment, adventure, social-media, sports, volunteering … just to list a few.  To spend 30 minutes on a survey just seems like an extra commitment that isn’t put to the forefront as a priority. In my agenda, those 30 minutes could be better spent on updating my family in order to avoid the angry phone calls later in the week, or they are spent completing a project that the T.A. sent a reminder of. The consequences of failing-to-answer the survey seems very minimal and even seems inconsequential.  Although students are very well aware of the importance of giving feedback for future students’ benefit, the reality is that there are more urgent matters that need immediate attention. Once the student has read the survey e-mail survey and failed to complete it at that time, the likelihood that the student will ever complete it decreases significantly.

My suggestion is to instill an incentive for students to participate in the survey and that the rewards are directly reaped. For example, instead of giving students an opportunity to take part in a raffle for a big prize, I suggest that students are directly given a reward once the task is completed – even if it is a candy or a pen. The traditional method of classical conditioning is very effective.  Aside from sending an e-mail to students, it might be wise to give students already attending an event a small time frame to complete survey. Students are more inclined to respond to in-person suggestions and validation.   All in all, it is not that students, like myself, are unwilling to answer the surveys. We are simply realizing that the time commitment  of answering a survey is  high, and the possible consequences that we may be burdened with when failing to answer the survey is zero. We realize that we don’t have a direct nor immediate impact on whether we take the time to answer the e-mail. Yet, if the survey would clearly outline the responsibility I personally have on other student’s experiences, then I would be more likely to take action and fulfil my duty. It all lies in the realms of responsibility, opportunity-cost, and consequences to set grounds on motivating students to actively participate in surveys.


Caroline Nguyen

Happiness-seeker, spontaneity-lover, and wholesome food-junkie are a few things that spike my interest. I try to spend each day lost in the moment, all while dwelling onto what is instead of what could be. Caroline, a fourth year UofT student, believes in the TGV train as the main mode of transportation: Transparency, Gratitude, and Vulnerability. Founder of and

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