Course Evals Go Online

This semester, UT administration are implementing a new system to enhance student feedback to professors about courses.

Interim Dean and Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Joseph Sclafani created the Teaching Effectiveness Task Force in April 2006.

“I knew we could do a better job of evaluating teachers,” Sclafani noted. Consisting of six members, one from science, two from social sciences and three from arts and humanities, Sclafani chose these faculty members based on their excellence in teaching.

“I knew these people had great reputations for teaching,” said Sclafani.

During the first year of its existence, the committee came up with three areas to concentrate on: include course evaluations, in-class evaluations of faculty completed by faculty and what Sclafani likes to call “artifact review,” where faculty analyze other faculty course materials. This semester the committee has decided to try putting course evaluations online in the hopes that it will benefit students and faculty.

At the end of the semester, students will receive emails with links to fill out online evaluations for their classes. However, all faculty are not required to provide their students with online course evaluations. In fact, some professors are implementing both online and in-class evaluations to get well-rounded feedback and in case a computer error occurs.

“This is an excellent advance,” Sclafani said.

UT contracted a pilot program with Online Course Evaluations, paying six thousand dollars for one year.

If the online evaluations do not prove beneficial, the contract will be terminated. However, if they are beneficial, UT will permanently contract for ten to twelve-thousand dollars each year for the service.

“Moving online is really exciting,” said Bruce Friesen, associate professor of Sociology and Teaching Effectiveness Task Force member.

Online course evaluations have the potential to be quite successful, reducing expenses on printing paper (roughly 17,000 copies are made in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alone for evaluations each semester) and relieving professors of printing evaluations for all their classes.

On top of this, professors would not have to take in-class time to fill out evaluations like they do with the current system.

Students will have more time to add comments and complete evaluations without the constraints of class time.

Having both the online and paper evaluations can benefit non-tenured professors who are seeking tenure status because they would have two sources of feedback to present.

The College of Business was invited to join in the online course evaluations, as well. Currently, twelve classes or 20 percent of courses in the school of business will be participating.

As far as judging if these online evaluations will be successful, no official system has been declared, but peer-to-faculty focus groups will likely be formed to obtain student feedback.

“I want faculty and students to be happy,” Sclafani emphasized,

Currently, 300 courses in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are using the online course evaluations.

Students wishing to provide feedback to Dean Sclafani about the online course evaluations, can email him at jsclafani@ut.edu.

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