University News

Move to online evals aims to save on paper

By
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seventeen departments are using online course evaluations instead of in-class paper forms this semester, according to Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron.

The online form, which the University has been developing and revising since 2006, was completed by 600 students for the first time in a seven-course trial run last spring, Bergeron said. That form drew on questions from a variety of departmental evaluations, she said, allowing deans to assess which questions were most useful.

This semester, for the first time, departments are able to add their own questions regarding specific aspects of curricula to the online evaluation form, Bergeron said.

Last semester’s form also included a question asking students to rate the form itself, and the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive,” Bergeron said.

The dean’s office decided to implement online evaluation forms based on input from the College Curriculum Council and the Task Force on Undergraduate
Education.

The online evaluations are part of a University effort, partially in response to student concerns, to reduce paper consumption and move toward being a “paperless” university, Bergeron said.

Last fall, the Office of the Dean of the College offered an updated form to all math and music classes and revised it again based on student response, Bergeron said.

One professor told The Herald she was in favor of online evaluations.

“It’s nice because students can do it at their own convenience,” said Nina Tannenwald, associate research professor at the Watson Institute for International
Studies.

But Tannenwald said she is concerned that students might not take the initiative to fill out the forms.

“(When) you have students fill out forms in the class room, you have a captive audience,” she said. “They have to do it.”      

Bergeron, who said she shared Tannenwald’s concern, said in the future her office hopes to link the form to Banner, so that students must complete an evaluation to receive their final grades.

Still, last semester both the math and music departments received about 60 percent of their evaluations — a “pretty good” rate for a voluntary system, Bergeron said. This year, nearly 20 percent of students completed online evaluations in the first two days after the form was made available Monday.

Students interviewed by The Herald appeared to prefer the online form because it is faster and easier to complete than paper forms. 

“I think online is more practical for people, especially for larger classes where only one-third of the class shows up,” said Rebecca McGoldrick ’12.  “People can do it at their own convenience.”

“When you can do it on your own time, you can put more thought into it,” said Gabe Gonzalez ’12.