DAY FIFTEEN - BOS Digital January

Welcome to Day Fifteen of Digital January. Today we're going to take a look at BOS (Bristol Online Surveys), a questionnaire design tool which helps you create and distribute surveys and manage the survey process.

If you've got a moment and you're enjoying Digital January - and lots of people are, according to our statistics - why not give us some feedback on our Padlet (and see Day Three for an introduction to Padlet).

What does it do?

The gathering of qualitative and quantitative feedback and opinion is key to research in some fields - the ability to create effective and well-presented online surveys and questionnaires is therefore central to that part of the research process.

Here at Dundee University we provide a software tool developed within the Higher Education sector - BOS, hosted through a spin-off from Bristol University but developed in conjunction with a large body of UK Higher Education users of the tool. Initially, the BOS tool was a home-grown piece of software, light on features and not particularly attractive-looking. However, several years of development have seen it grow into a much more powerful and professional-looking tool

BOS has three main components; Design, Distribute and Analyse.

The Design option, as you might expect, is where you develop the content and appearance of the survey , including the following;

  • setting up a structure and defining the flow and order of questions
  • populating the survey with questions from a variety of styles (multiple choice, free-text, Likert scale and more)
  • setting up routing to allow questions to direct respondents to other questions according to their answers
  • change colour scheme or add images, although the range of colour scheme options are limited
  • define permissions to allow others to edit your survey, manage its delivery on your behalf or just access the results

Taking these different features together, it's easy to design elegant surveys displaying varying levels of complexity according to need.

The Distribute feature allows you to manage the process of delivering the survey or questionnaire;

  • setting up start and finish dates
  • defining a list of respondents
  • setting secure access to a survey
  • generating messages for respondents

The Analyse feature allows you to do several things with results once they have been gathered;

  • view results (from the whole survey, from individual respondents or by filtering results by particular responses to questions)
  • display results using a range of simple graphics - tables, bar charts, pie charts only
  • merge, compare or cross-tabulate surveys to make comparisons with other surveys of a similar structure
  • share a survey in a standard format with other survey developers
  • conduct simple statistical analysis on results - although the tools for this are not well developed in BOS, there is the option to export the data to more powerful analytical tools to either Microsoft Excel or the excellent SPSS (for quantitative data) and Nvivo (for qualitative data), all of which are available for free from the University of Dundee to all students and staff

Have a look at an example of a BOS survey here - it's particularly relevant to Digital January because it's called How Digital Are You? and acts as a reflective tool to see how well you currently engage with all things digital. It also demonstrates the look and feel of a BOS survey. It's aimed primarily at students but works for staff too.

When would you use it?

There are a number of free Web-based tools out there - SurveyMonkey is popular but limited, and we like Typeform for its visual appeal. There are other tools such as SurveyGizmo and Qualtrics too, but the key thing to remember when choosing a tool to trust a survey with is your data. The information you gather from surveys may be sensitive or confidential, and you need to have control over that data. With BOS you have control over the data - it belongs to you and is only accessible to you - but data gathered and stored using other survey tools is usually the property of the host company, and often not subject to UK Data Protection regulations. For legal and intellectual property reasons it is therefore recommended that you do not use such tools if your research or survey is being conducted on behalf of or as part of your work at Dundee University.

Here's a short introductory video on using BOS - the first of five building into a suite of online tutorials.

How do you access it?

BOS is free and can be accessed from the LLC website here. Note that you have to request an account before you can start to use it, which you can do by emailing

Where can you get help to use it?

In addition to the video above, you'll be glad to know that the University of Dundee has a Survey Service, with their role being to provide guidance and assistance with setting up and distributing surveys.

What Digital Literacy skills will Slack help you to develop?

The University of Dundee has a Digital Literacies Framework which sets out what sort of digital skills you should have, whether you're a student or a staff member. It's unlikely you'll have all the skills contained in the Framework (yet!), but this project can help you get started in developing some new ones. To see the Framework click here and click on Digital Literacies Framework at Dundee University to download a copy.

Using a collaborative messaging and teamwork tool is an aspect of DIMENSION 4 - Manage & communicate information and DIMENSION 2 - Find Information as outlined in the Framework.



Created with images by net2photos - "Please rate your current experience as an organizer FY15" • andibreit - "survey opinion research voting"

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