Teacher evaluations take leap onto online

It is technology versus pencil and paper as course evaluations are making their way onto computer screens campuswide.

It is technology versus pencil and paper as course evaluations are making their way onto computer screens campuswide.

A group of 200 sections will test online course evaluations this semester to see how successful this change will be for the campus, said Catherine Wehlburg, executive director of the Office for Assessment and Quality Enhancement.

“The evaluations will be sent out to the student’s e-mail with a link to the test,” Wehlburg said, adding that automated reminders will be sent out daily until the evaluations are turned in or the deadline is reached on the last day of classes.

Wehlburg said this new version will include the same questions as the evaluations given during class time with a few improvements.

Rather than writing out additional comments on the back of the page, the text boxes will be below each multiple choice question, Wehlburg said.

“We are also hoping that this online version will promote longer text comments,” Wehlburg said.

If this pilot test is successful, potentially the faculty will be able to include added questions specific for their class which would be an even better evaluation tool, Wehlburg said.

“The pilot is going to test whether the techno-savvy generation is more inclined to respond online rather than being a part of a captive audience in a classroom,” said Susan Staples, the evaluation committee chair.

Students have differing opinions on how successful they think the change will be.

Some, such as Ashley House, a sophomore history major, prefer the traditional evaluations because they spend class time filling out the evaluations rather than free time, she said.

“I think the class time they allot for the evaluations is more convenient,” House said.

But others, such as Courtney Clark, a sophomore nutrition major, are looking forward to the online version because it will be one less thing to do in class, she said.

“I check my e-mail often, so I prefer the online one,” Clark said.

Wehlburg said, “Students tend to type faster than they write, so this may even cut back on the time they spend filling it out.”

The pencil and paper version brings in a 75 to 80 percent response rate, and the evaluation committee is hoping for an equal or larger response from the online test, Wehlburg said.

“Absences are one of the main problems with the pencil and paper version,” Wehlburg said. “But, with the online test, absences will no longer be an issue.”

Another improvement this online version will provide is more anonymity, Wehlburg said.

“Handwriting will no longer be a factor,” Wehlburg said. “So the test will be even more anonymous than the pencil and paper version.”

The responses from the online version will be given to the faculty the Friday after graduation, Wehlburg said.

“The faculty will be given the responses sooner, so changes can be made sooner,” Wehlburg said.

“I really hope students take advantage of this online evaluation,” Wehlburg said. “Evaluations are so important to the faculty and having more explanations in the text boxes will be even more helpful.”

The online course evaluations will begin April 18 and close May 2, Wehlburg said.