Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 11:25am

A new web-based survey tool deployed by Information Technology Services last summer is proving to be a successful solution for the University of Iowa. Using Qualtrics, over 130,000 people have responded to more than 4,000 surveys since last June. Since the transition to this new online survey software, the number of web survey users at the UI more than doubled, from 600 to nearly 1,500.

The UI uses online surveys to conduct research, evaluate faculty and staff members, and gauge customer service. Event organizers create Qualtrics surveys for registration, and service managers use it to gather information from customers as they assess demand and preferences.

Ben Earnhart, who handles technology for the Department of Sociology and the Iowa Social Science Research Center, has worked with Qualtrics on a dozen or so projects, including one that garnered about 1,400 responses.

“For the most basic functionality, it’s really simple to use. For more advanced users, the flow control, randomization capabilities, and presentation of questions can be incredibly powerful,” he says.

Earnhart says Qualtrics meets researchers’ needs for security and compliance, and that collaboration capabilities allow them to easily edit surveys. He can maintain control over the technical aspects of the survey but still allow clients to view results in real time. Another plus is the presentation options, which range from built-in templates to custom colors, spacing, and graphics.

UI technology experts say in most cases, people can create, test, and deploy a survey in less than 30 minutes. Users can log in using their Hawk ID, and Qualtrics is hosted and fully supported by the vendor. Users receive help directly from Qualtrics by phone or e-mail, Qualtrics provides a wealth of support information, and training is available in a number of formats at no additional cost to users.

Prior to Qualtrics, the UI had used WebSurveyor since May of 2005. The Survey and Desktop Applications Group in ITS-Enterprise Services investigated what the market had to offer and guided the transition once Qualtrics was selected. The Directory and Authentication Group hooked Qualtrics into the university’s Shibboleth to allow enterprise authentication. By January of 2012, everything was shifted over and ITS was able to retire the old tool.

Campus IT partners such as Earnhart complimented ITS on keeping clients informed and seeking feedback about users’ needs. Qualtrics staff members were impressed by the smooth transition.

“I have never worked with a university that more effectively and efficiently rolled out a university-wide solution,” says Bryce Winkelman, a Qualtrics representative. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with your university.”

Qualtrics is one of the first cloud-based services ITS has deployed for the entire campus. In evaluating future cloud possibilities, the UI will look at this as one of the successful transitions for campus.

For more on Qualtrics, including training and support information, visit /qualtrics.