How Technology is Improving Open-Ended Questions

Quality surveys are intended to enhance communication and engagement between surveyor and participants. One of the best ways to create a quality survey is to include “open-ended” or “unstructured” questions, which allow respondents to write their own thoughts, rather than choosing from among responses provided by the researcher.  However, while this question type makes respondents feel that their honest feedback is valued, it also requires extra work for the people tasked with collecting and coding those responses into usable data.

All of that is changing with the advent of Natural Language Processing, computerized programs with the ability to code written language, thereby greatly reducing the cost and labor associated with human reading and coding of responses. While this technology is becoming more prevalent in research, there are still issues to be addressed, including the need to train the program to recognize appropriate answer categories and to ensure that the coded answers make sense.  Survey specialists, therefore, are not yet obsolete.

Automated technology holds great promise for K12 Insight.  Our research department is testing several Natural Language Processing programs to determine how they may bring additional value to our clients. We’ll keep you updated on our progress.

Author: Dr. Russ

Senior Director of Research

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