When is it a good idea to use an online survey for evaluating Extension programs?

Program Evaluation September 11, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

If you are short on staff and time to conduct evaluations AND the majority of your program participants have an email account or internet access— YES – it’s a good idea to use an online survey. Online surveys reduce costs and labor. There are no paper or postage expenses or extra clerical support needed. Additionally, time spent tabulating and analyzing data can be greatly reduced with the helpful features built into most online survey systems available for subscription. Response rates are nearly equivalent to traditional paper surveys. An average response rate to an online survey after a conference or meeting is 57% (Archer, 2008). Response rates for impact evaluations can be expected at 51% and for needs assessments about 40% (Archer, 2008).  Limitations include lack of access to the internet for program participants and low levels of computer literacy. Tips for successful online surveys include telling program participants in advance that you will email them a link to an online survey. Also, developing a clear, introductory page for the survey helps response by communicating the intent and length of the survey (amount of time needed to complete it) and what will be done with the results. Online survey service subscriptions typically include the ability to design and collect data, but also to download data into PDF summary reports and as numerical data files for Excel and SPSS – saving even more time when it comes to analyzing, using, and sharing the results.

Web-based survey tools such as Survey Monkey can be used in many ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Extension professionals. Examples of how Survey Monkey has been used at the state and county levels to collect community and internal staff information for the purposes of program planning, administration, evaluation and planning effective training is described in this Journal of Extension article: http://www.joe.org/joe/2012august/tt4.php by Extension colleagues Wissman, Stone, & Schuster.  


Archer, T. (2008). Response rates to expect from web-based surveys and what to do about it. Journal of Extension [On-line], 46(3). Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2008june/rb3.php


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.