Online evaluations would be better, more complete


    ‘Tis the season for turkeys, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and family dinners.’Tis also the season for finals, term papers and, most important, evaluation forms.

    This fall, like every year, TCU’s Office of Institutional Research will distribute about 40,000 Student Perception of Teaching forms to every student in every class.

    Janna Livingston, administrative assistant for the Office of Institutional Research, said every form is scanned and processed by her office. After that, a packet that includes a compiled report, as well as the original forms, is passed on to administration officials in each school and then to individual instructors.

    This entire system takes an enormous amount of resources, such as pencils and envelopes, as well as hours of labor.

    Why, in the information age, are we still filling out these forms by hand?

    Livingston suggested to me that all of this could be done quickly and efficiently on computers. I couldn’t agree more.

    As a senior, I’ve filled out my fair share of these purple and white sheets, so I know the questions almost by heart. Most of the time, it’s easy to rate my professors. I’ve been fortunate to have excellent instructors. Sometimes, though, there hasn’t been nearly enough space or time for me to write my true feelings about a class.

    Livingston said students should care about SPOT forms “because it is their only opportunity to voice their opinion about the course and faculty – both good and bad.”

    Looking back over my semesters at TCU, I would say the best professors I’ve had actively seek out constructive criticism. They read each SPOT form carefully so they can improve their methods and classes.

    I’d like to think the comments I’ve made have helped, even if they have been a little critical.

    However, I believe it is the student body’s responsibility to alert administration officials of bad teaching, as well.

    That’s where online SPOT forms come into play.

    Many students write faster and think better when using computers. With online forms, administration officials could receive better, more complete evaluations. There would be no question of handwriting or space allotment, and online forms could be saved indefinitely, so previous complaints would be searchable.

    There are a few flaws to this proposed system, I’ll admit, but they are not without simple solutions.

    It can be difficult to perform surveys via the portal. Because the surveys are optional, students don’t feel the need to fill them out.

    In addition, if someone were to be incredibly bitter against an instructor, that person potentially could hack the system and create false reports.

    These problems could be avoided by requiring students to fill them out during class, much like the current system, but using a secure intranet page instead of paper. Students and professors would be required to enter matching codes to enter the system, ensuring that the right number of students had gained access.

    An all-online evaluation process would cut down on resources and labor, and it would increase the overall student response by allowing them a faster, more complete means of evaluation. Understandably, some problems would arise, but a system such as this would be far superior to what is currently in place.

    Brian Wooddell is a senior news-editorial journalism major from The Woodlands.