Course evaluations to undergo changes

By CiaraShook

It was announced that certain changes would be coming to the online course evaluations in College Council meeting on April 2, which took place on the eighth floor of the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

Tao Huang,  assistant Art and Design professor and representative of the Evaluation Committee, said those changes included closing a gap in completion time, piloting of the new evaluation program called “Course Eval 3,” establishing an Oasis forum for faculty to discuss and improve the process and looking at the effectiveness of questions students are being asked.

Huang said Jonathan Keiser, director of evaluation and assessment, informed the committee that prior to last year, the online evaluation system allowed students to see grades before taking their evaluation.

“That raised concern, so in December of 2009, Jonathan Keiser conducted a survey regarding Columbia’s course evaluation practice,” Huang said. “The responses he got show the majority think [students seeing the grades beforehand] negatively impacts the evaluation.”

Huang announced that beginning with the spring 2010 semester, evaluations will close prior to finals week, which eliminates the possibility of students seeing their grades while evaluations are available for completion.

Huang explained the new program, “Course Eval 3,” will be piloted during the summer 2010 semester and officially launched for the fall. This system will be able to provide statistical reports of the evaluations in a more intuitive way, will incur little change to the current user interface and will still be embedded in Oasis.

The evaluation committee is working to improve the questions and how they are weighted at the conclusion of a semester.  The committee plans to start a faculty forum on Oasis and get more student input.

The Evaluation Committee is working closely with the Office of Academic Affairs to establish an Oasis group that serves as a forum for faculty to discuss the process and implications of the evaluation.

Huang said the group will also provide information related to the evaluation process, including a question bank and literature.

Jessica Valerio, president of the Student Government Association, said the questions being asked on the evaluation do not give her, a student, the opportunity to really evaluate the faculty member.

“When you’re a freshman and you get your first evaluation, you don’t feel like you’ve actually evaluated anything,” Valerio said. “You have no motivation to do it again.”

Valerio recommended that faculty inform students that the process has been restructured and they have the opportunity to really evaluate faculty.

Michael Fry, assistant Television professor, said student input should be a natural part of the process anyway.

“There should be a mechanism in place where as you’re formulating questions that will excite students to respond, you actually have student input,” Fry said.

Huang said the committee directed Keiser to change the questions that put more focus on students’ own responsibility into the evaluation process, such as polling the students about how much effort they put into the course.