West Lothian College

Discover how SmartSurvey helped transform West Lothian College’s survey engagement and response rates.

Student feedback is essential to developing exciting and rewarding student experiences in the competitive higher education space. Working with SmartSurvey, it took less than 6 months for West Lothian College to achieve a 600% increase in response rate to their annual Induction Survey.

The college approached SmartSurvey after working with two previous survey software providers, who they had struggled to gain data consistency with and found their API documentation too challenging and confusing to work with. They had also faced problems with anonymously linking an individual student to a survey, with workarounds causing data reliability issues. Response rates were not at the levels they required, and system integrations were difficult.  

The challenges we experienced were unfortunately undermining the consistency of data we needed to achieve. And our volume of responses was nowhere near the levels we required. It was frustrating, because we knew that with the right tools we could achieve so much more. West Lothian College’s Data Scientist, Craig Moore

Based on these frustrations and a recommendation from Fife College, who spoke highly of SmartSurvey’s user friendly software and the much-improved response rates it helped them to achieve, West Lothian College approached SmartSurvey with the following key requirements:  

  • A quick and easy to use solution, that would enable them to collect feedback for five annual student surveys from around 9000 students
  • APIs, with full documentation and an on-hand support team to help them integrate critical software applications, including Power BI
  • The ability to meet industry compliance needs including the safety and security of student, and staff data being paramount
  • A solution to help them meet their response rate requirements with the Scottish Funding Council.

The Solution  

West Lothian’s data team trialled the SmartSurvey Enterprise solution, and it quickly became evident that SmartSurvey’s solution offered the ease of use, flexibility, performance, API tools, documentation and support expertise they would need to overcome many of their previous challenges. It also met their GDPR requirements.  

Craig Moore added:

The trial was perfect, giving us just enough time to look at the software and test out its APIs. Having access to SmartSurvey’s support team was a major benefit too, helping to ensure the tools could do everything we needed them to do, and the solution would work for us moving forward.

Once up and running with the software and APIs, West Lothian’s data team worked through their previous challenges to ensure they had everything they needed to maximize student engagement. Working with SmartSurvey’s team, they were able to find a solution to their anonymous survey challenge, using the student enrolment number within the individual tracking link invitations to overcome this.  

The college also took advantage of SmartSurvey’s API tools alongside their own SMTP relay system to reduce the number of surveys sent to spam folders, which helped meet the engagement and response levels required. In addition, the API functionality enabled the college to issue surveys via SMS through their existing SMS provider, to further improve response rates.  

The quality of SmartSurvey’s support documentation, was a big factor in this success:

We loved how simple and straightforward SmartSurvey’s support documentation was to follow, which helped us to hit the ground running. The ability to test out our API endpoints in a live test environment, from a range of different language options and the working code to test out different variables was huge. I can honestly say SmartSurvey’s support documentation is among the best we’ve seen. Craig Moore, Data Scientist, West Lothian College

During testing of SmartSurvey’s APIs, West Lothian’s data team were excited to see its full capabilities. Besides the ability to download responses within a JSON open standard format file, what delighted them most was discovering individual ID number identifiers for almost all survey elements, from individual pages to the questions, choices and answers.  

They quickly realized they could create a relational database from this, to provide a schema of everything going on in that survey and tie this back to their Power BI database. This would allow them to create more enhanced visuals for staff to interact with that data, further improving their understanding of that data and enhancing their decision-making process.  

Discovering the individual ID number identifiers was an unexpected bonus, as without this we wouldn’t have been able to create all these great visuals for staff to interact with. It’s a major benefit. So, compliments to whoever came up with this idea. Craig Moore, Data Scientist, West Lothian College

The Results  

Following their solution trial and ongoing use of SmartSurvey’s platform and APIs, West Lothian College, were soon experiencing dramatic response rate improvements. These included a 600% jump in response to their annual Induction survey and hitting the 50% or more response mark on 2 out of the 3 surveys they issued during their first six months of working with SmartSurvey.  

Such volumes are critical, as much of their survey report data is used for decision-making by their management and Board of Governors.  

Craig Moore told us:

The improvements in our volume and quality of data have been amazing. And vital too, as besides pinpointing areas where we can improve, it helped reveal more areas of good practice we can replicate throughout the college. SmartSurvey’s APIs and documentation, has been central to everything we’ve done. Working in conjunction with our student records, email and text systems, the APIs are probably the biggest and most important cog. Everything is now working in symbiosis and producing great results. However, without that central part of the API, it just wouldn’t have worked.

Having been really impressed with SmartSurvey’s platform, West Lothian’s data team chose to utilize the enhanced white labeling capabilities on offer. The custom sender domain name they implemented had an immediate beneficial impact on their survey engagement and response rates, as students could now see an email address they instantly recognized and trusted.  

SmartSurvey’s platform also met the college’s compliance obligations as a public sector body – with UK based data storage, UK based support teams, and ISO27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditations ensuring the perfect partnership moving forward.  

West Lothian College
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