In The New Face of Computer Applications, I discussed how computing is making a gradual shift from the desktop to the web. One great way to engage students using these new Web 2.0 tools is with online surveys. A number of solutions are available, but I tried using SurveyMonkey in my Marketing class last week.
SurveyMonkey lets you easily create free accounts; the only prerequisite is that you have an email address. The free account lets you create surveys with up to ten questions. The question formats and layouts are highly customizable. After you enter your survey questions, SurveyMonkey will give you a link to your survey. You can put this link on a webpage or in an email. Anyone who clicks on it will be directed to your survey. You can log back in to SurveyMonkey later to see the answers that people gave. The software presents your data in a very nice graphical layout.
My Marketing students are in the middle of a market research project, where they need to collect primary and secondary data about a particular organization and then make recommendations on how to improve that organization based on the data that they found. Surveys are obviously a great way to collect primary data about a group of people.
The students made their own online surveys with SurveyMonkey. I put the links to those surveys on my class website, and students spent a day taking each other's surveys online. Students then used Excel to create charts of the data, which will be included in their final research papers.
My middle school Computer Applications class is using SurveyMonkey too, although the requirements for their research project have been scaled down a bit.
The students love this! They like being able to do things with the web, and everyone was very engaged. In class, the students are learning how to conduct social research. We're covering topics such as: reliability & validity, quantitative & qualitative data, samples & populations, basic statistics, inductive logic, and research methods. Online surveys give students a real-world connection to these abstract concepts. I haven't evaluated other online survey systems, but SurveyMonkey has worked great for me, and I highly recommend it.