Course evaluations adjust with online learning

Course evaluations are currently open to all students and close on Thursday, May 6. Provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brian Raines, chair of the Faculty Senate, sent an email to faculty that said evaluations would be given purely for feedback and not affect the tenure clock. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Editor

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

With the switch to strictly digital methods of teaching, course evaluations have been affected as both instructors and students have had to make adjustments.

Course evaluations for the spring semester were made available to all students and close on Thursday, May 6.

In an email to all Baylor faculty in late March, Provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brian Raines, chair of the Faculty Senate, addressed topics such as the tenure clock and course evaluations.

“Results from student course evaluations will be provided only to the individual faculty member so that they may use this feedback as a way of improving their online instruction. Since this is the first time most of our faculty have taught online, soliciting feedback from students is important,” Brickhouse said. “Let us assure you that these student evaluations are instructive for you only, and you will not be harmed by the swift change to an unfamiliar pedagogy.”

Brickhouse and Raines also said that the evaluations from students this semester would not be used for the annual evaluation process, “nor as a mandated part of the promotion and tenure dossier,” due to the unforeseen circumstances professors and students underwent as a result of COVID-19.

Dr. Gary Carini is vice provost for institutional research and professional education at Baylor, and is heavily involved in the course evaluation process.

“The institutional research areas specifically, that report to me, that area handles teaching evaluations,” Carini said. “I have their administers evaluations, I always have. So that’s not new for this semester.”

Carini said that despite the immense amount of change students have endured during the transitional process from in-person to online instruction, he still wants students to treat course evaluations the same as they always would.

“Rate as you would, and then wherever there’s the opportunity to comment of any nature, it’s an open ended, kind of a text box question, that you respond candidly,” Carini said.

He said these responses and the quantity of them versus what is within them are what is most important to he and his team, especially in a time of change.

“We’re looking at response rate, not like how … many positive and how many negative,” Carini said. “That just gives us a lot more information to look at and for us to get better and reconfirm what we’re doing well, and strengthen strengths and strengthen our weaknesses as well.”

Carini said he advises students to holistically examine their class experiences, and not just focus on the time they got in class or online with their professors, whether that time be positive or negative.

“If post spring break represents the second half of semester in my mind, well, I’m going to kind of rate 50% COVID related and 50% not COVID related,” Carini said.

Carini also said he wanted to emphasize to students that the best thing they can do to improve these classes in terms of online and in-person teaching is simple: complete the evaluations.

“Feel free to give any sort of feedback,” Carini said. “The feedback is very, very constructive. It’s great, it’s great for Baylor, and we look at it as a way to improve, continue to improve and continue to raise the bar on our campaign.”