12 February, 2008

More Survey Tools: Using Google Docs

Following on from the recent post comparing three survey tools, I thought it was worth mentioning a feature in Google Docs. Google Docs is a free online office software suite and its spreadsheet tool allows you to set up a simple survey very easily. It collects all the responses in a spreadsheet for you. See Darren Drapers instructions if you want to give it a go, and you can look at an example form that took me about a minute to create.

I'll try and compare this with the other 3 tools that we looked at (remembering that it is in Beta testing and still has some bugs).

-Form creation, duplication and management among a large number of people

It is very easy to create simple forms. You're not going to create anything as attractive or complex as FormAssembly allows, but you can create something that does the job in minutes.

Regarding duplicating the form and allowing other people to use it (for example to share a generic end of module survey that someone else might want to use in their course) you can upload a spreadsheet downloaded from someone else's account but it doesn't store the formatting of the questions. This is a bit of a drawback if you want to use this for large generic forms as you'd have to reset the question types.

Google Docs allows you to create a form and invite people to collaborate in its development if you want. There is a synchronous chat tool built in to help collaboration at a distance. As Google accounts are free anyone who wanted to use it could just create their own account and their own forms if that is required.

-Completing the forms

No issues there. The survey creator even has the option of including past answers at the bottom of the page in case that helps or interests the person completing the form.

-Data management and analysis

The data is stored in a spreadsheet which can be downloaded in various formats, or displayed in a chart. Pretty much like the other three services we looked at.

-Financial cost

None. It is free.

-Potential longevity of the service and any other things

Well I'm sure Google isn't going away, and as they are developing the service and everyone seems to be using it, I'd say it has a long term future.

In all, this is a great tool for easily setting up forms. Hopefully the drawbacks (issues when duplicating forms, bugs seen when changing forms that have already been released) will disappear in time.

In my mind FormAssembly is still king when it comes to complex forms that you can take time creating, and Blackboard's Assessment tool is great for end of module surveys because it is integrated into the VLE and you can upload and develop a generic set of questions. Google Docs though is probably the easiest and quickest method if you are wanting to create and distribute a simple survey quickly.


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