Y puts teacher evaluations online


    By Laura Cantera

    After more than six years of development, student-teacher ratings are now available online.

    Student ratings have normally been administered in class near the close of each semester in paper form. Now the critique can be completed via the Internet up to three weeks before the last day of classes.

    The university originally decided to make the transition for accreditation purposes, but have had positive feedback about the new system by means of pilot tests and surveys.

    After a Fall 2000 pilot, a survey was administered to 18,000 students. 89 percent of those students preferred the online ratings as opposed to the paper form. Faculty members approved with a 78 percent majority, said Trav Johnson, faculty center representative helping with the project.

    The most common advantages to the new system that students and faculty cited included efficiency, convenience, ease of usage, anonymity of responses, more time to consider answers and ease of commenting.

    “I thought it (online student ratings) was great because we didn”t have to use class time to do it,” said Eric Lynn, 22, a junior majoring in political science, from Coto de Caza, Calif. “Sometimes you want to write longer comments but there”s not enough time in class because you have to get to another class immediately afterward.”

    The most frequent causes for concern included getting enough students to complete the forms and the hassle of making the transition, Johnson said.

    “You”re depending on the students to take their own time out of class to do it,” said Bruce Schaalje, the undergraduate coordinator in the statistics department. “I think that will have some effect lowering the response rate.” Schaalje volunteered to use the ratings with one of his classes in the Winter 2002 pilot.

    To make the transition smoother, the paper evaluations will be available for the “near foreseeable future,” Johnson said.

    However, the paper ratings have been formatted to be more in line with the online evaluations.

    A majority of the content for the new assessments is the same as the past paper forms, but the student ratings committee has worked to improve and some items and delete others, Johnson said.

    But the even the newest paper form cannot compare with the efficiency of filling out the online version.

    The average time to rate one teacher online was about three minutes, and for a student to rate all of his or her teachers would take only fourteen minutes, Johnson said.

    But the real question on students” minds is whether or not their critiques are even being considered.

    “If students want to have some direction on the impact, this gives them a chance to provide feedback that is useful,” said Monte Shelley, director of instructional applications, and member of the committee that works on the student ratings.

    Johnson said faculty, deans and the administration focus on the ratings as a means to evaluate and improve courses and faculty.

    “They have a lot bigger impact than people realize,” Johnson assured.

    Lynn said it is difficult to determine if there is a change in faculty practices because by the time evaluations are completed, the semester is over and most students do not retake classes. So, it seems time alone will tell how effective the new system is.

    “I don”t have many conclusions because I think it”s really preliminary,” Schaalje said. “We”re taking a step into the unknown and it”ll take a while to see how it works out.”

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