Senate votes to pilot online evaluations

Carrie Blazina

Faculty Senate voted at its meeting Monday to implement a pilot program for online course evaluations. Only two senators voted against the motion, so the university will implement the program in the College of Nursing and in all distance learning courses.

Students in those courses already complete online course evaluations as part of an earlier pilot program, Senate Chair Paul Farrell said, but this will be different because students who do not complete them will receive a four-day delay on their grades.

Senator-at-large Thomas Janson, a professor of music and former senate chair, said after the meeting he supports the recommendation because he thinks an incentive to complete the form is better than making the evaluations mandatory.

“I think students are adults,” he said. “If they want to fill it out, they will. Otherwise they won’t.”

Janson said his students are already online, so he thinks they would transition to online evaluations just fine.

“They’re online anyway,” Janson said. “Even if it’s not an online course, they’re doing other courses, or they’re doing their research, or some kind of homework on the computer.”

Some senators during the meeting raised questions about the pilot, such as why this pilot is being implemented in the same program as the other pilot, why students receiving grades on time is an incentive when they probably can calculate the grades themselves, and how long the pilot would take to implement.

Farrell said the senate executive committee thought implementing the new pilot in the same colleges and disciplines would allow them to compare before and after data, and see if the new incentive increases the form completion rates.

Senator Owen Lovejoy, who chaired the commission that initially made the recommendation to reform course evaluations, said not all courses allow students to calculate grades, so receiving grades on time could still be an incentive.

Farrell said there is no timeline so far on how long the pilot might be tested, but he and Provost Robert Frank both said they could convince the university’s technology people to get it implemented quickly. Farrell said the pilot would run as long as necessary to get the data to compare the old and new systems.

The senate also voted unanimously to change the name of the general studies degree to a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies. It will have two concentrations, one that gives a bachelor’s degree to anyone completing three minors and one called the general concentration.

Janson said the name change will update the program so Kent State stays in sync with other universities and allow students to create a program that fits them.

“The concept is to design your own degree within the confines of what’s required by the state,” he said.

President Lester Lefton also addressed the senate and introduced the senators to the university’s new provost, Todd Diacon of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Diacon replaces Frank, who is leaving at the end of the semester to accept the presidency at his alma mater, the University of New Mexico.

“Todd Diacon was everybody’s first choice,” Lefton said, so his decision was an easy one.

Lefton also provided updates on a few academic matters. He said he hopes to pass a resolution at the March Board of Trustees meeting to acquire the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine and have the closing papers by July 1.

Despite his assurance the process was proceeding smoothly, Lefton also said it involves many departments and is quite complicated.

“It turns out that acquiring a small college is as complicated as acquiring General Motors,” he said.

Lefton also promised a renewed interest in working on only a few things at a time and doing them well.

“Over the last few years we put a lot of things into the blender, so to speak,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot done and I expect that we’ll continue to get a lot done, but I really do expect that we will be focusing on a few things and moving them ahead.”

One area he said he will focus on is advising. He said he and Frank have been talking to deans and faculty already about making advising better, and said it will not be a one-semester initiative but an ongoing improvement process.

“We have to do the best job we can with advising,” he said. “I would like us to be known as the best advising university in America.”

The Senate will meet again March 12 at 3:20 p.m. in the governance chambers.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].