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Campus Rec using PDAs to survey students

Nov. 19, 2007
By Erin McCarty | Photo by Laura Wolfe

A new survey system implemented by Ohio University's Division of Campus Recreation has given the tried-and-true paper and pencil method an upgrade.

Photo by Laura WolfeThe new system utilizes personal digital assistants -- more commonly known as PDAs -- to record student responses. The data then is uploaded to a server using a type of software called StudentVoice, which allows users to develop online surveys to assess curriculum and services. The system offers the added advantage of allowing users to compare their data with that gathered by other colleges on the StudentVoice network.

Campus Recreation has partnered with the university's Division of Student Affairs and the Center for Higher Education on the $10,000 StudentVoice project, which includes software and 20 PDAs, said Doug Franklin, assistant dean for recreation and wellness in the College of Health and Human Services. The college administers Campus Recreation, and Franklin serves as the division's director.

StudentVoice will help the partnership analyze data and assess the effectiveness of its co-curricular activities. It also will enable administrators to create and implement new programs more quickly.

"Instead of having a program developed in 2004 for 2007, we can develop a program in 2007 for students of 2007," said Kevin Smith, assistant director for leadership and community service in Campus Life, part of the Division of Student Affairs.

Campus Recreation implemented the survey system during its Halloween-themed Planet Ping event in October. Participants' surveys were uploaded to the network by the end of the event, evidence of StudentVoice's speed and ease of use. And compared to last year, when 60 paper surveys were returned, this year's event generated 195 electronic surveys, said Megan Karbley, a facilities personnel graduate assistant in Campus Recreation.

Many respondents noted the system's convenience compared to traditional survey methods.

"It actually made it a more attractive survey," said junior Parker Fernandez. "It's definitely more exciting than paper and pencil."

Added freshman Betsy Thomas, "It was fun. I like that it's modern technology. It's easier because you don't have to sit somewhere and write on it."

Franklin said the new software will help administrators with three key measures of the services they provide: accountability, affordability and accessibility.

Sponsored activities are created with the idea that students are likelier to stay at the university if they become involved through either employment or participation. "You need to be comfortable where you are in your environment," Smith said, "and we need to know how to make this possible." 

In addition to using the data to ensure accountability, Franklin pointed to another advantage of its implementation: "I have a personal goal to increase scholarship in the area of student learning outcomes, assessment and standards in Campus Recreation. We know we influence (students), but with technology we hope to prove it."

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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