Monday, 5 March 2012
First steps with Google Forms
I've become quite a convert to Google Docs recently - no longer do I have half-written Word documents or spreadsheets lurking in the corners of memory sticks or in the bowels of my email inbox, but start them from scratch in Google if I have even the faintest suspicion I'll be editing them on more than one machine, or collaborating on them with others.
One part of Google Docs I'd never really tried before is Forms, but took the plunge last week when creating a student feedback questionnaire for Information Commons equipment loans. Previously I'd been using SurveyMonkey for similar surveys, but the free account is limited in both how many questions can be included, and what can be exported in terms of data.
Google Forms was both very easy to set up, and has the advantage of not only allowing as many questions as I wanted, but also in adding the results straight into a spreadsheet. There is also a visual summary of the results in bar-chart format.
When completed, the survey was emailed to students, via Google Docs, and a steady trickle of responses suggest users have having no trouble accessing and filling out the surveys. Surveys can also be embedded into webpages, or shared via Google+.
The survey I sent was a simple, anonymous survey, but there are several other features that are useful that I did not use. You can set your form, for example, to log the user's University of Sheffield email address, which is useful for non-anonymous surveys. There is also the opportunity to tweak the spreadsheet to provide automatic marking for quizzes or tests, as described here.
But one thing that really sets it apart from many other free services is its use of branched logic, demonstrated here as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. The ability to jump ahead to sections based on the answers to previous questions is a big help in producing forms that keep things simple and don't confuse the respondent with superfluous questions.
So in conclusion, a great tool for producing surveys, with some good features that allow for more complicated applications. It's easy to make questionnaires for wide range of tasks, from student evaluation to graded tests. You can also use it for live polling during classes or sessions, by giving users a laptop to fill in the questionnaire with, or asking them to do so via their smartphone or tablet browser.
I'd be interested to hear how other people are using Google Forms around the University.