Departments across campus to adopt online evaluations next year

Marissa Barnhart

With the end of the semester approaching, students will fill out paper evaluations to rate their professor and overall experience in their courses, but some departments will permanently switch to electronic versions after testing them out this semester.

Provost Todd Diacon said the perks of electronic evaluations are that they can be done from any mobile device, tablet or laptop, and the link to the evaluation will remain open until midnight of that day.

“So if you’re in a class that’s part of the pilot, and you’re not in class that day, until midnight, you could go [do the evaluation online] — because you would have gotten an email saying, ‘Here’s the link’ — you can click into that link,” Diacon said. “It’s password protected. And then you could fill it out.”

Geology is one of the departments making the switch. Assistant geology professor David Singer said the university gave the department the option to participate in the pilot for electronic evaluations this year before they become mandatory next year.

“Our department volunteered to do it since it seems like it will be the future anyway,” Singer said. “This is our first semester of not using the paper ones.”

Singer said students are provided a link to the evaluation through their email. Students fill out the evaluation during the first 15 minutes of class.

Julie Markovich, sophomore speech pathology and audiology major, said she thinks the switch from paper to electronic is a good idea because it’s more convenient for students and professors.

“It seems most students have a smartphone or laptop, so they can just fill it out easily,” Markovich said. “And professors don’t have to take time out of class to pass it out.”

While Markovich thinks the electronic version will be more convenient for people involved, English majors Laura Jones, a freshman, and Katherine Gombert, a sophomore, said they see a problem with students filling out the survey.

“When you put a piece of paper in front of them, they’re going to fill it out,” Jones said. “But if it’s just online, no one’s going to fill it out.”

Gombert said she doesn’t think students will fill out class evaluations online because they can access them from their phones and make it seem like they are filling them out.

“I can think of so many people who will just play games [on their phones] instead of actually doing it,” Gombert said.

Both said the only way they see students filling out the surveys is if there is an incentive involved.

“Either grades or perks,” Jones said. “That’s what they did for the living evaluations — the ones about your dorms — they offered Insomnia Cookies if you filled it out. Or, if you really needed them to fill it out, it could just be a simple homework grade.”

While students don’t necessarily have to fill out course surveys, Singer said he was able to check the response rates the day after he gave out his evaluations and found the number of responses to be higher than expected despite absences in his classes.

“The students who were absent that day could have had the opportunity to do the link later in the day, but did not, which is fine,” Singer said. “If it was the written evaluation, they would have not done it either. So the response rates, at least this semester, matched my expectation of what I was going to see based on who was present that day.”

Singer said he is curious to see what comments students left. He also said he wishes there had been more flexibility for when professors give out the evaluations. He said the university gave them a specific date to give out the evaluations, but professors found out later that they could have changed the date.

He said in one of his colleague’s classes, half the students were on a field trip, so the instructor knew the results of the evaluations would be less helpful.

“He would have preferred to wait, to have more control of when he could give them out,” Singer said.

Singer also said that the added flexibility would have helped for classes that had just given a challenging assignment because it could sway students’ opinion of the course.

“We’ve also learned that you don’t give an evaluation on the day you give back grades,” Singer said. “Never after something challenging.”

Contact Marissa Barnhart at [email protected].