Online Evaluations Get High Marks from Students, Instructors

Students at UT Dallas have a new option for sharing thoughts about a particular class or professor:  a University-wide online course evaluation system.

Online Evaluations on Mobile Device

The course evaluation system is available in PC and mobile versions.

The Faculty Senate and a committee of faculty and students adopted the program last semester. The move follows a decade of relying on paper course evaluations.

The system was created to reach out to students via personalized emails encouraging them to provide feedback. Their anonymity is protected through the use of “tokens” that track respondents without attaching names. The system also protects against manipulation or duplication of forms, which was possible with the paper versions.

Course evaluations are available in both desktop and mobile versions. The mobile version proved to be particularly popular among students.

Richard Huckaba, associate provost at UT Dallas, said several factors drove the move away from the old paper method.

“The data from paper forms had to be sorted, processed by a third-party vendor and then posted online for public viewing. That process was labor-intensive and took months to complete. With the online system, results can be posted within days of the final submission of grades.”

The move to all-electronic evaluations follows a year of discussion, months of considering the types of questions to be asked, and a semester-long trial run. The evaluation results for fall 2011 were published in CourseBook, an advanced catalog tool for obtaining information about classes at UT Dallas.

Assistant Provost Simon A. Kane, who worked closely with faculty to develop and launch the system, said students have responded enthusiastically.

Simon Kane, Cynthia Collier, Sabia Yousuf and Xuan Zhang

Assistant Provost Simon Kane, who worked with the faculty to develop and launch the new online course evaluation system, congratulates student winners of a contest for early responders. Pictured left to right are: Cynthia Collier, Sabia Yousuf and Xuan Zhang.

Jindal School of Management supply chain management student Xuan Zhang said she’d never completed the paper-based evaluation before, but said the online evaluation system was easy to use.

Her participation in a system trial last fall qualified her for a drawing, and she received a free iPod in a random selection of early respondents.

Cynthia K. Collier, an audiology student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, won an iPad2 in a separate drawing. “It was so easy compared to paper, and so fast,” she said. “I don’t usually add comments, but for a couple of classes I did if I felt strongly one way or the other.”

The launch proved popular among faculty and staff at the University as well. Ashbel Smith Professor of Psychological Sciences Dr. Marion K. Underwood said she was pleasantly surprised by how many students responded to the online evaluations.

“I was also delighted that the evaluation results were available so soon. Students make genuinely useful, constructive suggestions, and it’s good to have their input sooner rather than later.”

Dr. Mette Toresen Posamentier, assistant director of assessment in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, agreed and said, “I was very pleased with the online evaluations. As far as I am concerned, the process worked very well, and I think we are off to a good start.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].