Students now able to rate courses online

By Taylor Rexrode
Staff Writer

After 35 years of paper evaluations, students can grade their professors and classes online from home.

Course evaluations began Monday and will end May 8. Students can access their online evaluations through Blackboard and will be directed to a third-party vendor that compiles the data.
For security reasons, these evaluations will not be available for professors or department chairs to see until after final grades are posted, and there will be no identifying features on how students rate their professors in the evaluation, unless they identify themselves in the open comment sections.

Of the courses offered at Baylor, 99 percent will be evaluated online this semester.

Some professors within specific programs, including parts of the Honors College and School of Education, have opted out of online evaluations, sticking to paper methods for one more semester.

The Office of Institutional Research and Testing plans to have all courses online by this fall.

The university has used paper evaluations for students and instructors for 35 years, at times burning through 60,000 pieces of paper in a semester.

With the electronic course evaluations, Dr. Wesley Null, vice provost for undergraduate education, said Baylor will stay true to its goals for sustainability.

“In a digital age, it only makes sense to move in this direction,” Null said. “As a part of Pro Futuris and the green initiative, it makes sense to switch because we were wasting a lot of paper.”

Not only was a lot of paper used in years past, but several people in the Office of Institutional Research and Testing were involved in keeping evaluations organized.

Dr. Kathleen Morley, director of institutional research and testing, explained how the electronic system will help her department.

“The paper evaluations are handled no less than three times,” Morley said. “For us, the manual labor is being cut down tremendously. Our department, from me to our student workers, used to have to help throughout the process. Instead of having everyone involved, only one to two will have to communicate with the departments to make sure the system is running the way it is supposed to.”

Now that everything is going electronic, the results are also gathered more quickly so that instructors can get their results and apply changes to their procedures as needed.

The process to go electronic started three years ago and they started piloting the program a year later.

According to Null, 71 percent of students have responded to paper and electronic evaluations in previous semesters and the goal for this semester is to get 75 to 80 percent of students to respond.

The traditional way of evaluations had professors devote a portion of class time — often times the last five minutes of class—to write evaluations.

Then a student would collect the evaluations in an envelope and drop them off in one of the drop boxes across campus.

With electronic evaluations, Null said the hope is students will give “better and more substantive written comments” when they are doing the evaluations at home or on their smartphone or tablet during their own time.

“These evaluations matter, and we want students to complete them,” Null said. “We’ve made the process very convenient, so students should be willing to do it. It’s a way to give feedback to instructors about the experiences that students have had, and the suggestions they have for how to change a course.”