Course evaluations will go online in fall

by Haley Hansen

The comments and critiques students make on their course evaluation forms at the end of this semester may influence other studentsâÄô future class selections. Come fall, parts of studentsâÄô end-of-semester course evaluations will be available online for other students to view when deciding what classes to take, a policy change students have spent years advocating for. While the information online wonâÄôt be about individual faculty members, it will be about specific classes, which some say could help students make better informed decisions when enrolling in courses. Students fill out evaluations at the end of each semester for each course they take, which gives them the opportunity to provide instructors feedback on what they liked and didnâÄôt like about the class. The feedback that will be available online includes questions like whether students would recommend the course to other students, if the courseâÄôs grading standards are clear, and how much time per week the student spent doing work related to the course. Under the policy change, the course evaluations will go online unless a professor chooses to opt out. Before, professors had to opt in to make some data available to students online, but Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Ole Gram said only about 5 percent of professors chose that option. Gram said the school isnâÄôt certain where the information will be gathered but said it will be online where students can access the reviews. He said having this type of information online is a good middle ground between websites like Rate My Professors, where comments can be polarizing. When all students are required to respond, feedback regarding courses is more balanced, Gram said. He said the policy changes are a good compromise between addressing faculty memberâÄôs concerns with having the information public and giving students more information to make better-informed decisions. Minnesota Student Association member Nicholas Ohren said while students can be abrasive at times when it comes to commenting about their professors or courses, most students can determine for themselves whether those students are just ranting. He commended the changes, saying that the former setup didnâÄôt make sense for students because they had to spend time filling out evaluations that would never be seen by other students. Minnesota state law doesnâÄôt allow for personnel-related information to be publicly released. The teacher evaluations can impact faculty membersâÄô promotions and tenure, which is another reason why the data will only be about courses. Also, he said, advisers canâÄôt know everything about every course, so feedback from students would be helpful while choosing courses. Valkyrie Jensen, Student Senate chair and MSA committee director for University Policies and Student Concerns, said the information will likely help students be more prepared for what the course will entail. âÄúQuestions like, âÄòHow was technology used in this class?âÄô âÄî these can give students a better picture of what the course is going to be like,âÄù she said. Mechanical engineering professor Will Durfee, who was the Faculty Consultative Committee chair when the Faculty Senate passed a resolution for the changes, said the new setup is a significant step forward. âÄúWhen a student does have a choice, I think having information that they can [use to make] wise choices certainly is beneficial,âÄù Durfee said.