EPPS Students Test Online Course Evaluation System
Jun. 16, 2011
Students in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS) quickly adapted to an online system for course evaluations launched this spring, providing detailed feedback while saving UT Dallas time, paper and money.
About 65 percent of EPPS students filled out online assessments before the semester ended, compared to 66 percent who provided feedback on paper forms last fall. Dr. James Marquart, dean of EPPS, was surprised and encouraged by the high adoption rate in the program’s first semester.
“I think the new electronic system was a great success,” he said. “We were able to do the evaluations with greater efficiency. But we also got the kind of comments and information from students that will help us assess teaching effectiveness and make the school a better place to learn.”
EPPS was the first school at UT Dallas to use all-electronic course evaluations, which, like the paper forms, were designed to capture students’ opinions about instructors and subject matter. The data from paper forms had to be sorted, processed and posted online for public viewing.
Assistant Provost Simon Kane is leading the University's move toward all-electronic class evaluations.
Simon Kane, assistant provost, is spearheading the movement to online evaluation. He said the paper-and-pencil method not only limits the amount of information the students are able to provide, but also takes a third-party vendor weeks to process, which costs the University tens of thousands of dollars each year.
Kane said UT Dallas created a system that reaches out to students, sending personalized emails encouraging them to provide feedback. Students’ anonymity is protected through the use of “tokens” that track respondents without attaching names. He said this system also protects against manipulation or duplication of forms, which was possible with the paper versions.
“One of the concerns about online forms was that we would only hear from the extremes – the students who really loved or really disliked a particular instructor. But in the data we’re looking through from this semester, we’re not seeing that,” Kane said. “We seem to be getting a good overview of what a wide range of students think. And they are able to give more details through the comments section of the online form. So we’re gaining more insight into why they rate a professor in a particular way.”
Kane said he expects additional schools within UT Dallas to begin using the online system for upcoming semesters. He will continue to make adjustments to the system and the evaluation form during the summer, to improve efficiency and usefulness.
To encourage EPPS students to try out online evaluation, Marquart gave participants a chance to win an iPad. He presented the device to Rambo Shen on May 18.
“I was really excited about winning the iPad,” said Shen, a sociology major due to graduate in 2013. “But I thought the online form was a great idea, the chance to save paper. So I would have filled it out anyway, even without the chance of winning the iPad.”