U profs using online evals

by Anna Weggel

For the last three years, University departments have been switching from traditional paper course evaluations to online ones.

Billie Wahlstrom, vice provost for distributed education and instructional technology, said the University began offering online evaluations to set up a standard procedure that faculty members or colleges can request.

Wahlstrom said University officials were concerned because some departments were offering their own online course evaluations that didn’t have the same elements as the traditional evaluations.

“Without a consistent way of developing so that the forms and data were correct, there was concern that the student identification (was being) decoupled from the response,” she said. “We want students to have privacy and security when they make an evaluation.”

The University’s online evaluations also save money and time, and make it easier for students to be thorough, Wahlstrom said.

“I think it’s easier, because sometimes, I was always worried that I didn’t leave enough time for students to make thoughtful replies,” she said.

Wahlstrom said students in the past have been nervous about teachers identifying their handwriting and neglected to make honest comments. She said having online evaluations will help solve this problem.

Although these evaluations are not handed out to students during class, Wahlstrom said, response rates are about the same as traditional evaluations.

“We send a notice, and when they don’t respond, we send them more notices,” she said.

Wahlstrom said teachers have been pleased with the response rates and efficiency of the online evaluations, and many are using that option each semester.

“We didn’t create it to make people do it, we created it because we saw a need,” she said.

Sandra Ecklein, an analyst in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said her department has been recruiting big classes to use online evaluations to get as many people participating as possible.

“It was one way to do it easily instead of recruiting 30 small classes,” she said.

Ecklein said that every semester, her department hopes to have more participants than the previous semester.

This semester, there were 39,000 individual student evaluations set up, from more than 50 departments, she said.

First-year global studies student Theresa Bauer said she prefers online evaluations to the original paper form because they are easier to use. Bauer said her teacher and teaching assistant notified her biology class about the evaluations five or six times and sent an e-mail about it.

“I felt more apt to do it,

because I was not pleased with my TA,” Bauer said. “If I didn’t feel strong, I may not have done it.”