How to Survey Students During a Pandemic

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At Pride Surveys, we have been working on how to survey students during a pandemic from the moment schools started closing. We have worked with some outstanding coalitions to navigate this very question and would like to share our strategies with the community.

First, we would like to address the elephant in the room, which is access to technology and technology infrastructure. Teaching students from a distance, much less surveying them from a distance, presents challenges. Students in rural areas and those living in poverty are some of the most challenging to serve in the best of times. We have seen districts stepping up and providing devices and internet hot spots deployed on school busses, which is progress in the short term, but does not address the underlying issues surrounding equal access to technology infrastructure in certain areas. We do not have a solution for this except to make sure that we are aware of these issues as we move to primarily online surveying. We will make sure we ask questions to the coalitions and schools we serve to inform our choices about how to gather data most effectively.

Predicting what schools are going to look like after the summer while there is still the threat of COVID-19 is difficult. It will likely be a patchwork of guidelines and recommendations that will vary by state and will be up to the districts to decide how best to implement social distancing guidelines for their own students. In some cases, we are seeing the decisions left up to the individual parent on how they would like to proceed with the school year. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how to survey.

At Pride, we have two primary modes of surveying: paper and online. The paper option has been popular because of the ease of handing out the survey and taking it back up with no need for technology in every classroom. If students are not in the physical classroom, this is no longer a viable option. Paper surveys would present a financial barrier if sent to individuals due to increased mail and handling costs. The online version of the survey is going to be our primary mode of surveying students during this pandemic.

With online surveys, we have found that if there is a structured environment already in place for students taking virtual classes, students can take an online survey, and Pride Surveys will still get good response rates. Currently, we have only completed one test run in a district surveying at the high school level. We received over 4,000 responses to the survey with students surveying from their homes. Students should have access to a computer desktop/laptop or a tablet to use to take the survey. Cell phones are another option but are discouraged due to the small screen size, making it more difficult to read and navigate the survey itself. We provide each school with a code that they then give to their students at the start of the survey so that we can still identify each schools’ students to build the reports. As always, we avoid collecting individuals’ data so that the survey remains anonymous.

Another way we help schools survey students during a pandemic is by maintaining a help desk and an 800 number to troubleshoot any problems as they come up. Problems from software can arise like firewalls, parental control, and other software issues that might occur so that we can support the school and students during the survey process.

The other thing that we are aware of is that the pandemic has been affecting students in different ways. We are working on a suite of questions to address how the pandemic affects students’ mental health, stress and isolation, education, interpersonal relationships, and nutrition and health. We hope to have these ready in time for school in the fall and will be testing them early in the new school year.

We want to give special thanks to our customers for their continued support of our small business. We will continue to provide the highest level of service and are committed to helping improve the lives of students through providing a better understanding of students and their behaviors to key stakeholders in the education and prevention communities.

Should you have questions or be interested in an online survey to survey students during a pandemic, Pride Surveys is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.

Jay Gleaton, President and CEO, Pride Surveys

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