You can understand why this was great for us to hear. Most of the ways The TLT Group serves subscribers involve helping people collaborate with one another: in improving faculty support, assessment, planning, learning space design, meditating ‘dangerous discussions,’ etc.. Flashlight Online is a web-based system shared by about a hundred subscribing institutions. It’s easy for authors from different institutions to see one another’s surveys, use one another’s items, co-author surveys, analyze data together. (Of course, authors can also keep a survey and data private, if they choose.) Previously we’d thought of Flashlight supporting collaboration by helping survey authors work together. So President Shugart’s observation was a delightful new way to see Flashlight Online.
At that moment, I realized I’d already seen another, quite different example at Valencia of using Flashlight Online to promote democracy, shared governance and collaboration. As we’ve already described in our blog, Prof. Pat Nellis has developed a Flashlight Online survey for students to vote on class rules. Pat uses public debate and secret ballots to help assure that, if there’s a rule, students follow it. This kind of practice teaches students about the strengths and weaknesses of democracy in ways that go beyond what high school civics can teach. (Click here to see a Nellis survey.)
At other institutions, Flashlight Online has already been used in a faculty union election and other forms of voting.
We can imagine using Flashlight Online as a tool to engage a whole institution's worth of students (including commuting students and 'distant learners') in governance. On what questions of policy and practice would be useful to uncover student preferences, opinions, and activities? On questions where the institution could use student input, work with student government and make it a regular practice to
a) ask students, then
b) report back to students about how their input has reshaped policy, services, etc.
Over time, I predict you'll see an increase in response rates to your surveys, student involvement, student identification with the university, and perhaps even, over the long haul, alumni giving. Over time, I predict you'll see an increase in response rates to your surveys, student involvement, student identification with the university, and perhaps even, over the long haul, alumni giving. (I admit I'm an optimist, but I believe that if you ask people questions whose answers are important to them, they'll invest a bit of themselves in responding.)
Is anyone at your institution using Flashlight Online or some other survey tool to support collaboration, shared governance, or voting? Want to know more about any of the cases mentioned above? Please let us know by posing a comment on this blog or emailing me.