Ball State announces iPad incentive for students to fill out online course evaluations

The university wants students to fill out online course evaluations. So much, in fact, that those who participate will be entered in a drawing for one of six iPad2s, according to an email sent from the provost's office on Friday.

"Why not reward students for what we would like them to do?" Associate Provost Marilyn Buck said.


As of Friday, only 28 percent of students had filled them out.

The evaluations help professors improve their curriculum and style of teaching. But they can also help determine promotion and tenure decisions, Buck said.


The response rate was about 80 percent in 2009 when the university still used a paper system. James Jones, director of Research and Academic Effectiveness, said that basically reflected the number of students in class on the day the surveys were given.

Ball State piloted the online evaluation system during the summer of 2010. During the fall of that year, the response rate was 56 percent. Last spring, it was 54 percent.

"It is well known that online would have a lower response rate," Jones said. "My personal goal is just that they don't decline and swing the other way."

According to a Daily News report, the paperless evaluation system saves over than $100,000 annually in material costs, including 120,000 sheets of paper and 15,000 large envelopes.

But besides the green initiative, there is another reason for students to take the surveys online: among those who fill them out, 30 will be chosen for priority scheduling, meaning they will be among the first people to build their class schedule.

Beyond that, it will be a first come, first serve basis starting in the fall. The old system of seniors getting priority will no longer apply, Buck said.

After this semester, the provost will evaluate the effectiveness of the incentive program and determine if it should continue.

Two years ago, a University Senate task force started to research the use of online course evaluations and incentives.

Brien Smith, associate dean of the Miller College of Business and former chairman of the University Senate, led the task force. He said he advised against using an incentive program.

"The research indicates incentive programs do work," he said. "We shouldn't entice people to do something that is right ... but other universities have seen a modest increase in participation in doing that."


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