Creating Data Collection Instruments

Welcome! This resource page was designed to accompany our various workshops on creating on-line survey instruments. We keep this page active as a service to those of you who would like to learn more about creating and using online data collection tools.

Background Material

Surveys are just one part of a complete data collection and evaluation strategy. Within this context, surveys are powerful tools that can provide insight into skills, competencies, and attitudes among teachers, administrators, and other members of your educational community. Nevertheless, we have found that all too many technology coordinators and/or district staff have simply substituted "survey" for evaluation when it comes to assessing technology integration and impact. In the NECC workshop and in article referenced below we have articulated the need for a richer evaluation and assessment process.

Sample Surveys

These samples are designed to showcase some of the most common features of simple online surveys. All of these make use of the BNBFORM cgi script which is referenced later on this page. Feel free to view the samples, but note that they will not actually "work" in terms of being a vehicle for your actual data collection. To use or adapt them, you would first need to install the BNBFORM script on your webserver and modify various form variables for your own environment per the instructions provided with the script.

The Script

OK, for those of you who were looking for the techie part, here it is. Online surveys make use of a scripted set of commands that instruct your web server to collect, parse, and report the data submitted via a web-based survey form. This is all of the behind-the-scenes technical stuff that happens when you click the SUBMIT button on a survey form. In our workshop, we have used a freeware cgi script which is available from a cgi script resource site called BigNoseBird.com.

While this script is well documented and can be installed by someone with a relatively small amount of technical know-how, it's still important that you (assuming you're the person with the "relatively small amount of technical know-how") have access to a technical web professional who understands how your server is configured and operates. This person can explain some of the more mysterious elements of the script configuration, and in particular help you with the locations (on your server) of various utilities and programs that are necessary for script functionality. Yes, this is a bit more complicated than the use of day-to-day software applications.

A good test to see if you need technical assistance -- or to see if you might be getting in over your head -- is to view the readme.txt file for the script. If this stuff makes sense to you, and seems like something you can handle...go for it. Otherwise, maybe you should show this to your webmaster.

HTML Tools

We highly suggest that you use a web design tool such as Dreamweaver, FrontPage, or Go Live! to create and edit your scripts. While it is possible to develop a survey page with a plain text editor (by typing in raw html code) or a word processor (such as Word), editors and word processors do not have the integrated capacity to do things like easily switch between code and wysiwyg or to upload your completed pages to a server. Frankly, the frustration you might experience using somewhat inappropriate tools is not worth it when you can purchase a real web design tool for under $200 (academic pricing).

Creating Your Own Survey

The best way to get started creating online surveys is to modify an existing survey form. Before you do this, you need to understand the principles of basic HTML (or use one of the tools mentioned above) and the basic structure of the bnbform.cgi script.


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Last updated,April 6, 2008