Conducting campus climate survey If your educational institution has decided to conduct a campus climate survey, you may be struggling with where to begin. You are not alone; designing a successful campus climate survey is a complex task, one that requires thorough planning, collaboration and hard work by everyone involved to yield useful information.

The United States government has issued a guide to help colleges in their efforts to reduce sexual assault on their campuses. This guide goes in depth on creating campus climate surveys. It is full of valuable information and deserves a thorough reading. However, for those looking for a quick overview, here are 7 basic steps to creating a campus climate survey to get you moving in the right direction.

Step 1 - Set Goals and Milestones

Sit down and discuss with your administrators, deans, Title IX coordinators to understand what kind of information you are wanting to gain from conducting a campus climate survey. Creating goals and requirements for the final survey will become your guideline for developing the survey.  It is also very important to set a deadline for major milestones, which include:

  1. Survey design
  2. IRB approval
  3. Finalizing technology/administration and analytical setup
  4. Administering the survey
  5. Conducting analysis
  6. Publishing results
  7. Determining action items, priorities, budget, roles/responsibilities for upcoming year

Step 2 - Engage with IRB

The order of this step may change depending on your educational institution’s approval process.  Most colleges/universities will have a formal Institutional Review Board (IRB) process to make sure the survey follows the IRB guidelines.  This may require proposing the project before any work is done.  Other IRB or campus review boards will only need to approve the final survey draft before it is sent out for responses. Check with your university’s or college’s human subject research guidelines before administering surveys.

Step 3 - Assemble a Team

After you have reached a consensus on the goal of your campus climate survey and know how you will engage with the IRB, it is time to assign roles and responsibilities of survey creation, review and distribution.  You will most likely need a multi-disciplinary team to help you. Preferably, you will have representation and cooperation from the following participants:

  • Research faculty (social science research)
  • Academics
  • Administration
  • Student representatives
  • Grad research assistants
  • Title IX administrators and coordinators
  • Counseling services employees

If you are reading this blog post, it is most likely that you will be the main coordinator who will come up with initial list of survey questions and setting review meetings and deadlines to keep the project progressing

Step 4 - Create and review survey

With your team assembled, many workshops and planning sessions will be needed to complete the survey creation process. These workshops will be essential to ironing out what questions are needed to obtain the information you are looking for. During these meetings, it is very important to take notes, particularly on the rationale for each question that is included. These notes will prove a valuable resource, especially when you run the survey again.

When the survey starts to come together, it is wise to test your campus climate survey with a focus group. These participants will be able to give you feedback, making you aware of things you need to change, questions you need to clarify, etc.

Finally, always review your final survey before it is sent out to your respondents. Some things to check for other than grammar and spelling are length, biased/leading questions and statements, confusing or misleading questions, etc.

Step 5 - Administer the Campus Climate survey

When your campus climate survey is completed and ready to be distributed, make sure to do it in a way that protects your respondent’s anonymity. There are a number of ways to distribute surveys, with the most popular being internet-based distribution. By using online survey programs such as Qualtrics or Survey Monkey, you have control over when the surveys open and close. They also offer tools to analyze the data when it comes in.

Make sure to distribute your survey to as many people as possible to ensure you are getting a good number of responses. Too few responses can lead to results that are not statistically sound.

Step 6 - Remind your respondents to take the survey

To increase your respondent numbers, make sure to periodically remind people to take the survey. Do not overburden them with reminders, however, or this could lead to people becoming irritated and less likely to respond.

Another way to gain more respondents is to incentivize the survey. This could be accomplished by offering a tangible reward, either to all respondents or to one or a few lucky respondents. Not all colleges and institutions offer incentives for their survey, so be sure to discuss incentives and budgets that comply with your institution’s values and budget.

Step 7 - Start analyzing the Campus Climate Survey data & results

After the survey response collecting time period has passed, or you have reached your sampling goal, close the survey. You may now start analyzing the results!

Many survey programs will allow you to analyze your results with their tools, but most will not be able to analyze open-ended questions. Make sure to analyze these answers carefully, as they often provide unique and interesting insights that can not be collected through traditional multiple choice questions.  You may need a grad assistant to "code" the responses so they can be analyzed as quantitative items

Publish your findings!

Those are the 7 basic steps to creating a successful campus climate survey! While these steps have been stripped down to their most basic forms, there is still a lot of complexity behind them. Remember, this guide is not a substitute for reading the full guide issued by the government, but a supplement and a springboard. Use these basic steps to start your planning, and refer to the full guide for more detailed instruction.