Online evaluations start this semester

Beginning this semester, all students will complete the Student Perception of Teaching evaluations online using new software instead of in class on paper. 

Cathy Coghlan, director of Institutional Research, said that last semester, 40 percent of TCU’s departments used eSPOT evaluations online. With the change to SmartEvals software, all of the departments on campus would conduct faculty evaluations online.

Online evaluations would be more sustainable, she said, and they also would be more convenient for students, who spend much of their time on their computers.

“When everybody was doing the paper SPOT, we processed over 100,000 pieces of paper per year,” Coghlan said.

The online evaluations have better reporting capabilities, which will help faculty see where they need to improve and make changes more easily, Coghlan said. Students could also write longer comments in the forms than they had been able to previously.

But for faculty to get accurate results, students must complete the evaluations, she said.

“We hope that students will recognize how important this is, that faculty really do want the feedback,” Coghlan said. “They look at the feedback, and they make changes in their courses because of [it].”

On Jan. 12, faculty members met with the creator of the SmartEvals system, company president Larry Piegza. He demonstrated the software’s capabilities and answered questions about the product.

Piegza said designers would customize the evaluations according to the university’s preferences along with the specific questions students are asked. One issue he addressed was how student privacy would be protected and how evaluations would remain anonymous.

“The system is very much built to make 100 percent sure that no student can be identified,” Piegza said.

The university would own all data collected during the evaluations, and none of it would stay with the company.

Coghlan said when the time for online evaluations came around, students would receive an email asking them to complete their evaluations with a link in

However, sophomore engineering major Justin Gruetzner said he did not find the online option convenient after he took an online eSPOT evaluation last semester.

“You had to do it on your own time rather than in class,” Gruetzner said.

Coghlan said, however, that she thought the majority of students will not have a problem doing the evaluations online.

“It seems to me that students today are used to doing things online, so it will be, I think, convenient for the students,” Coghlan said.