Online evaluation system gets mixed reviews

  • Instructors have now received the results from the new online course evaluation system.
  • Some faculty had feared that fewer students would participate because evaluations were done outside of the classroom.
  • Participation was lower than with the old pen-and-paper system, but it was not down as much as originally thought.
  • The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, which oversees the course evaluations, is pleased with the results.

Faculty and administrators have received the results from the university's new online course evaluation system. While no formal surveys have been conducted to gauge professors' responses to the new system, reaction has been mixed so far.

Instructors gained access to results of the evaluations the day after grades were submitted to the Office of the Registrar, according to Gary Levy, associate vice provost for Marquette's Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

Old course evaluations were completed by students with a pen and paper, ensuring a higher participation level among students in class. With the new online system, some feared that fewer students would choose to participate in course evaluations.

"My impression would be that the response rates on evaluations were higher when we gave them out in the classroom," said Lawrence LeBlanc, chair of the political science department. "We still got, I thought, fairly good response rates."

LeBlanc was most interested in the difference between high and low participation rates and whether that actually changes the value of course evaluations.

"It may be that the outcome, that is, how the students rate the course, came out the same," he said. "What is the real difference?"

LeBlanc said professors in his department have had positive and negative reactions to the new system.

Rodrigo Morales, an assistant theology professor, estimated that 65 to 70 percent of his students submitted evaluations.

"Participation has been higher than I expected, but not as good as the old system," he said. "I prefer the old one."

Levy said informal feedback he has received from faculty has been "very positive."

However, Levy is realistic regarding the willingness of instructors to accept the new system.

"I would never argue that everybody likes it," he said. "I think people are going to be cautious and skeptical, and as well they should be."

Submitted evaluations went to a database server in the Informational Technology Services office. Some statistical analysis was done there and "more sophisticated analysis (was) done by OIRA," Levy said.

The evaluation reports include comparisons of the statistical results for the department, college and university on each question.

The electronic system does provide some benefits over the paper system. Besides saving paper and money for the university, the new system also makes it easier for professors to compare the results of current evaluations to previous ones, Levy said.

He said he is happy with how the first use of the online system went.

"For a first semester doing it online, I have to say I'm pretty pleased," he said.