Online professor evaluations may provide better feedback

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    Evaluations are only as meaningful as students make them, but some students do not take end of the semester evaluations to heart because the impact from the evaluations will not have an effect on them, senior biochemistry major Lauren Rutter said.

    Evaluations done at the end of a semester are meaningless to many students because any suggested changes to a course will only be seen by students in the following years, she said.

    Most students evaluate their professors at the end of a semester, which does not always allow feedback to reach the professors in a timely manner, Ted Legatski, associate professor of business management said. Professors are not able to make changes to their class to better suit the students for that semester, he said.

    Evaluations in the middle of the semester would be much more useful to professors because they would provide timely feedback and allow professors to make changes to their class if necessary, Legatski said.

    “I’m in favor of midterm evaluations because they will allow professors to make changes to courses that are not conducive to learning,” Rutter said.

    Teacher evaluations have an important role in the learning process at TCU, said Judy Groulx, chair of TCU’s Evaluation Committee and associate professor of education. When students provide feedback on evaluation forms, it makes a difference in the quality of education they receive, Groulx said.

    In some departments, evaluations are used to determine promotion, tenure and merit pay, Groulx said. Therefore, it is important for students to provide responsible feedback; otherwise, the whole evaluation process is meaningless, she said.

    TCU has a commitment to excellent teaching, and students are the closest ones to that process, Legatski said. When students submit evaluations with negative ratings and do not add comments, the value of the evaluation process declines, he said.

    “Students must be active partners in the learning process by providing well-considered feedback,” he said.

    In the last TCU Faculty Senate meeting, senators consented that changes to the current evaluation system were needed.

    One of these changes was the use of an online evaluation system.

    The system was created by the Evaluation Committee in 2007, but many people had a negative experience because of spam, Groulx said, so the committee looked at other options and decided to test an evaluation system called Class Climate.

    The new system was used this past summer, and many classes had more than 80 percent of students respond, Groulx said.

    Online evaluations allow more time to complete the form, which, in theory, should create a higher participation rate from students, Legatski said. Unfortunately, there will be students who do not fill out the evaluations online for their own reasons, he said.

    "Online evaluations are more sustainable and relevant; however, students may not be as likely to participate if they are not handed [evaluations] in class,” Rutter said.

    The Evaluation Committee encourages professors to use the online system for mid-term evaluations. However, the online system is not required by TCU, Groulx said.

    Every department at TCU has the option of whether or not to use the online system. The Evaluation Committee does not know when the implementation of the system will take place, but hopes the system will be able to make the evaluation process better, Groulx said.

    The Evaluation Committee encourages students to take a few minutes to let their voices be heard, regardless of whether it is positive or negative feedback, Groulx said.