Departments in 'pilot program' to test course evaluations online, drop paper

With the end of the semester approaching students will have a chance once again to grade and evaluate their professor’s performance. This year, however, more departments have decided to move to online evaluations in an effort to use fewer resources.

Beginning the last two weeks of the semester students can fill out the online evaluations on their classes and instructors and the results will be given to the instructors and their supervisors. 

Evaluations have been a useful tool in the past for departments when they’re determining the promotion and assessment of a professor, said Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Reporting Kris Smith.

According to Smith the online evaluations take less resources and produce more accurate results online in case of any unforeseen problems with scanning the paper evaluations. The downside to the online evaluations, said Smith, is the number of students completing them.

“The response rate isn’t as high as we would like it,” said Smith.

Fewer students complete the evaluation online because there isn’t time set aside in class for completion. According to Smith, the response rate for online evaluations is on average 45 percent compared to paper evaluations which average 76 percent.

The departments that have chosen to use online evaluations will be on a "pilot program," a trial to see what the response rate is to the evaluations, said Leslie Cook, the secretary of academic affairs in Student Government. Those departments will not pass out paper copies.

The evaluations typically provide 16 statements that are about the class and professor and students can rank their agreement with the given statements on a one to five scale. One example from last semester was for students to rank if they agreed with the statement “the instructor made the class intellectually stimulating.”

The evaluations also have a section for written comments from students.

The results of the questions are averaged and then given to the instructor and heads of the department, although each department has different policies concerning the evaluations.

According to Smith, however, the comments made by students are only seen by the professors. Extra comments that are written by students about either the class or professor aren’t seen by the department heads.

Smith said the extra comments are only seen by the professor because it’s hard to put the comments in context with the class when someone besides the professor is looking at them.

Another component of the evaluations that is relatively new is that the results of the paper and online evaluations are all available online. The results can be found on a student’s “mymason” account underneath the courses section. 

This allows students to read evaluations about either past classes or current professors. The reader comments aren’t made available online but the results of the specific statements are available. Postings currently go back to the spring 2008 semester, when the optional evaluations first went online.

According to Cook the hope is that students will use the service similar to Rate My Professors.

Students taking classes within departments that have chosen to provide evaluations online will be able to complete the evaluation form two weeks prior to the semester. Professors not using online evaluations will hand out paper evaluations prior to the completion of the course.

Instructors will inform their classes whether the semester evaluations will be done in class in paper form or done online.



Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)
Student Media Group: