Rethink evaluations

End-of-semester evaluations should be offered online.

Each semester, the University of Minnesota offers its students a chance to evaluate the performance of their professors, most of whom emphasize the importance of these assessments, but students are usually given only the last few minutes of a final class period to fill them out. Worse, most are in a rush to get somewhere after class or want to get out early, so they hurry through the evaluation without giving thoughtful, helpful comments. The University should open an online comment component to all end-of-semester evaluations, where students could make comments if and when it was convenient for them. Free of the time constraints of an in-class evaluation, motivated students will have time to give meaningful feedback. Many students have experienced that moment when they wish they had written something on an evaluation but forgot to; online evaluations would fix that problem. While there does tend to be a lower response rate for online evaluations, the existence of an online component would not have to preclude the collection of traditional handwritten evaluations. Rather, it could serve as a complementary forum for additional feedback. Online comments can also help preserve a sense of anonymity. Though professors almost never recognize studentsâÄô style of expression, perceived anonymity is an important factor for students who want to leave honest criticism in safety. This system would demonstrate to students that their evaluations are valued and demonstrate to teachers the importance of professional growth through stronger feedback.