Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015: Online Pilot

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) has always been administered on paper. This report summarises an online pilot ahead of the potential move to conduct some of the SALSUS 2015 fieldwork online rather than on paper.

This document is part of a collection

1 Background and aims

1.1 The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) is a continuation of a long established series of national surveys on smoking, drinking and drug use. These were carried out jointly in Scotland and England between 1982 and 2000, to provide a national picture of young peoples' smoking, drinking, and drug use behaviours within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored, survey known as SALSUS.

1.2 SALSUS is currently paper-based. However, as technology has advanced, the transition from paper to online administration is being considered for the 2015 wave of SALSUS.

1.3 Moving from paper to online administration can bring cost efficiencies and improved data quality. However, previous research and experience suggests it can be harder for schools to administer online surveys and it can result in decreased response rates.

1.4 Ipsos MORI Scotland have been commissioned to undertake the 2015 wave of SALSUS and, as part of that contract, to conduct an electronic trial comprising a feasibility study (published), then (depending on the findings) an online pilot (this report) and then (depending on the findings) a mode effect experiment to assess whether the change of mode has any sizeable impact on results.

1.5 The feasibility study concluded that it did appear feasible to conduct SALSUS online in 2015 and that the online pilot should proceed. This report presents the findings from that online pilot.

The overall purpose of the pilot was to:

  • pilot the instructions given to both liaison teachers and class teachers
  • ensure that the survey works as it is intended to (e.g. that the links work and that the data is submitted successfully)
  • identify any problems and potential solutions
  • identify any ways in which the survey processes can be improved and the burden for schools can be minimised.

1.6 The pilot also explored the extent to which the following potential problems, identified in the feasibility study, affected the administration of the survey:

  • timetabling issues
  • availability of computers
  • connectivity issues
  • software compatibility/website issues
  • accommodating the requirements of pupils with additional support needs
  • whether it was possible to administer the survey in exam conditions.

1.7 The effect on pupils was also explored, specifically:

  • pupils’ overall reaction to completing the survey online
  • whether pupils took the survey seriously
  • whether pupils appeared to be taking time and care over their answers
  • whether there appeared to be much conferring over answers
  • whether pupils had concerns about confidentiality.

1.8 The pilot was not intended to identify or measure any difference in response between the paper and online modes. This would be the purpose of the mode experiment. However, if there were major concerns (e.g. clear evidence of poor quality data), that would be highlighted.

1.9 The pilot was also not intended to explore wider issues about the administration of surveys in schools which might apply regardless of the mode.


Email: Emma McCallum

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