< Back to all posts

Defining Survey Fatigue

October 27, 2017 02:47 PM

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a deep look into survey fatigue in HEIs.  Discussions will revolve around defining survey fatigue, causes and of course reccomendations on how it can be curbed. In this article, we explore about what survey fatigue is and common causes.

So What is Survey Fatigue?




Survey fatigue occurs when respondents, in this case students (or academics), become less responsive, bored or disinterested with a survey, causing them to respond to survey questions at a substandard level. An example of survey fatigue is ticking random options without reading survey questions.

Common Causes of Survey Fatigue in HEIs Surveys


Surveys are a great way to learn about students/staff and their general opinion on several activities in a HEI. However, given the data driven nature of the digital age and how easy it is to set up surveys nowadays, many HEIs have gone into a survey overdrive and demand that their students complete more and more surveys. Some HEs go as far as locking out students off their VLEs until they complete a survey! That’s the best way to get the worst data.

Poor organization of survey

Creating a survey that has no structure is a good way to find out what survey fatigue looks like. Often times, HEIs are so focused on getting answers to their questions that they don’t pay any attention to structuring these questions in the right order. The structure and general organization of a survey plays a huge role in how well students will respond to it. Considering that HEIs are the very soul of research, it’s nothing short of ironical that many HEI surveys are created without careful attention to question phrasing, question types and order of questions. This of course, often results in unfinished surveys or low response rates.

Lengthy Surveys

One of the major causes of survey fatigue in HEIs is length. Do you think that students want to spend thirty minutes on completing a survey, when they have ‘better worries’ like catching up with happenings on social media? Or that academics are thrilled at having to use their spare time on another survey obviously aimed at determining if they’re fit for their jobs? Now, this is not to say that all lengthy surveys could result in survey fatigue, no. Depending on a couple of other factors like survey organisation/structure, a lengthy survey can either be successful or a great way to invoke of the worst kind of survey fatigue.

Survey Mechanism

It’s the digital age and many HEIs are still stuck in the traditional way of doing things. It’s hard to imagine that some higher institutions still take the brick approach to survey in this out-of-hand digital age. What do you really expect from a survey on teacher performance, filled by students and collected by the same teacher or any other teacher for that matter? Of course, no matter how ‘fair’ HEIs claim to be, students’ fear for their grades and would rather give the sloppiest of facilitators a pass mark to avoid ‘grade danger’. The digital age has ushered in a more anonymous and easier way of taking surveys on the go. However, the failure of most HEs to innovate in the area of survey mechanism is one of the major reasons survey fatigue persists among students.

Poor incentive

The concept of incentive is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in HEI surveys. Many institutions believe that incentives have to be extrinsic but that isn’t always the case. Imagine students having to fill survey after survey each year and being told it’s to improve institutional quality but they never really see this improved quality. Many  students assume each survey it’s just another pointless activity that does nothing. While extrinsic incentives are great, intrinsic incentives like letting students in on the results of their survey and how it has brought about change is equally as motivating.


Discover more in this series!

Survey Fatigue – A Danger to Teaching and Learning Excellence

Why Survey Fatigue Should Be Top Priority in HEIs 

Underused Ways to Improve Your Survey Response Rate 


Deliver Best Practice in HE Course Evaluation

  • Gain deep insight into ways HE providers should approach course and module surveys
  • Find out what influences survey design
  • Get More out of student surveys