February 6, 2003
ON-LINE COURSE EVALUATION SYSTEM BACKGROUND
· With the approval of the Deans of Arts & Sciences, Engineering Nursing, and Education, and the advice of their respective Chief Technology Officers, ITC has created a new on-line course evaluation system which will be available through the Instructional Toolkit.
· Primary "ownership" of the system resides with the departments.
· The system will be made available to departments this semester on a voluntary basis, with the goal of mandatory participation in the future.
· The evaluation questionnaires will be formulated mainly by individual departments, though it is planned that instructors, Deans, Student Council, or the Provost could add questions. Four different types of responses to questions, including brief essays, can be accommodated. It is hoped that all levels will work together to formulate a mutually agreeable set of non-redundant questions which will encourage constructive and interpretable responses.
· Security and privacy are addressed by making responses to a given set of questions available only to those who posed them. There is a security firewall to prevent linkage of responses to individual students.
· Data analysis and storage is the responsibility of each school, although ITC will retain a secure copy of the student responses if desired.
· Insufficient student participation is a major concern with an on-line system. ITC has provided several mechanisms for encouraging responses, ranging from incentives like added course credit or early registration opportunities to coercive features like blockage of course grades in the absence of a response. The current plan is to make the on-line forms available to students through the end of Finals week. The general issues of student compliance, student willingness to write constructive evaluations, and timing are not resolved yet.
· Student Council provided a major impetus for the system. However, the planned interaction between departments and the Council remains ill-defined. The system makes sense only if there is a standard set of Council questions acceptable to all departments. How will that be negotiated? What information from the responses should be made available to the Council for public posting? Will the Council be given access to essay responses?
· Many of the initial concerns of the Academic Affairs Committee about the system have been addressed in its current implementation. However, there remain a number of loose ends and likely difficulties. There is also potential for misuse of the system or future changes which render it less useful to the departments. Course and teaching evaluation is such an important aspect of academic operations, and one in which longitudinal stability is essential, that we believe there should be stronger faculty oversight of this system.
· Therefore we recommend that the Senate:
(1) Ask the Provost to appoint an academic leader for the project who is charged with responsibility for its structure and operation.
(2) Appoint an advisory committee for the project leader consisting of Senate and non-Senate faculty with broad representation across the spectrum of schools and departments. This committee should particularly include some members with professional experience in teaching evaluation. The Chief Technology Officers of the schools should be ex-officio members.
(3) Ask that the system's basic structure be codified in a written memorandum of understanding between the departments, the Deans, ITC, and the Provost.
Prepared by: Robert O'Connell (Chair, Academic Affairs) and Robert E. Davis (Chair-Elect)