Section 4.6.3 Paper vs. Digital Surveys

Section 4.6.3 Paper vs. Digital Surveys

Section 4.6.3 Paper vs. Digital Surveys

There has been a substantial growth in electronic-based SET in Higher Education in recent years (Barkhi, & Williams, 2010). While there are obvious resource-related advantages associated with this move from paper to digital many lecturers prefer to retain the more traditional –pencil and paper’ approach to evaluation.

Fike, Doyle, & Connelly (2010) provide a very accessible introduction to this issue, particularly in relation to the largest concern usually expressed about online surveys – the potential impact of lower student participation rates. The pros and cons are also discussed by Anderson, Brown & Spaeth, (2006), and Donovan, Mader, & Shinsky, (2007) provide an insight into the student perspective on paper versus digital surveys.

Some research does suggest that the method used is influential. Chang (2005) reported that ratings on SET tools were influenced by the survey method (i.e., online or paper), a finding corroborated by Morrison (2011), who similarly reported that differences in response rates and ratings.

Lalla and Ferrari (2011) list the following eight measurement issues known to negatively impact online surveys:

4.6.3 paper vs digital.jpg

Activity 4.6.3

Although specified for online surveys these measurement issues could apply equally to paper or digital questionnaires.

Consider how each issue could relate to both paper and online surveys, how each could be addressed, and which would be easiest to overcome

How it applies (Paper) How it can be overcome (Paper) How it applies (Online) How it can be overcome (Online)
Coverage errors
Sampling errors
Non-response errors
Measurement errors
Environment control
Completion time
Computer availability


Fike, D. S., Doyle, D., Connelly, R. J. (2010). Online vs. Paper Evaluations of Faculty: When Less is Just as Good. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 10(2), 42-54. (Also from

Donovan, J., Mader, C., & Shinsky, J. (2007) Online vs. Traditional Course Evaluation Formats: Student Perceptions. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(3), 158-180 (Also from

Anderson, J., Brown, G., & Spaeth, S. (2006). Online Student Evaluations and Response Rates Reconsidered. Innovate 2 (6) (Also from

Lalla, M. & Ferrari, D. (2011). Web-based versus paper-based data collection for the evaluation of teaching activity: empirical evidence from a case study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(3), 347–365

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