Teacher evaluations now online at Ball State

Many students on campus received the constant e-mail reminders to complete course evaluations online by 2 a.m. Saturday, but some are wondering why are the evaluations are being offered electronically as opposed to the traditional in-class forms.

The decision was primarily a cost-saving effort, James Jones, assistant director of Research and Design, said.

"It's quite green compared with what we were doing before," he said. "We used 120,000 paper forms annually, so it eliminated a lot of that."

Another reason for the online offering, Jones said, is to increase student accessibility.

"It does allow everyone an equal opportunity to complete evaluations," he said. "In the past when evaluations were done in class, if you happened to be gone from class that day then you'd miss the opportunity to do evaluations."

Reception has been mixed, Jones said, but the university has received little actual feedback.

Online evaluations became available during the first summer session with some features that have been removed in subsequent sessions due to privacy concerns, Jones said.

"In the early summer, there was a period of time that faculty could see who completed evaluations or not, [but] they couldn't see the responses," he said. "In a class of four students, what if only one student responded? In this case, there's nothing that gives away which of the four students responded."

Barry Umansky, Faculty Council chairman and telecommunications professor, said the response rate cannot be calculated until the end of the evaluation period, and he stressed the importance of filling out evaluations.

"We'll see what the response rate is like, and there are ways that response rate can be enhanced," Umansky said. "The goal is to have a better picture of how instructors are performing."

Umansky said the move goes along with the increasing trend of Internet accessibility and digitalization.

"This is a bold attempt to use a more contemporary method," he said. "I'm hopeful that this system is going to work and yield some data that will guide administrators and department deans as to how students are responding to the teaching efforts of the faculty."

The purpose of course evaluations is so the administration can make personnel decisions based on student responses, Jones said.

"The faculty uses this info to help improve courses and decide which parts are working and which aren't," Jones said. "The more data they have, the more they can see what the class as a whole is saying."


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