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Instructor/course evaluations to be moved online

BY KRISTEN EAST | JANUARY 31, 2012 7:20 AM

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Cayla Gorsh wants to know exactly what's in store before she signs up for University of Iowa courses.

As early as this coming fall, she and other interested students may be able to go online to view UI class and teacher ratings gathered through the school's Assessing the Classroom Environment forms. Students have not had access to the results of the paper forms, usually distributed in classes at the end of the semester.

"I think it would be easier for students to view evaluations online so they know what to expect," the UI junior said.

Joyce Moore, the director of the UI Evaluation & Examination Service, said the department expects to launch the online form in the fall for the next academic year.

"It'll be similar to the current paper form, but it will provide for much more flexibility and open-ended responses," she said.

Students will have the ability to search for evaluation responses by course numbers, professors, and departments.

"We've done some outline of how we want it to look, but we're just in the preliminary talking phase," Moore said.

Evaluation & Examination Service officials have teamed up with UI Student Government leaders in developing the online database.

Kevin Paulsen, the UISG executive associate to the president, spearheads the group's involvement in the project. He joins several previous UISG officials who have been working to establish online evaluation for the past decade.

"Every UISG administration has been working on this for the last 10 years, or least for as long as I can remember," he said. "It hasn't been a priority as much this year, but it's definitely something we want to do."

Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science who uses his own evaluation form, has posted responses online since 1997.

"It gives current and potential students something to look at," he said. "You need to know what you're getting into. Students may not be really thrilled about the class, but if they know what they're getting into, they may enjoy the class more."

Paulsen said despite the access, the information may not be that useful for students.

"Publishing this information probably isn't going to be much of an assistance …" he said. "We've found that it's not representative of all the classes."

Paulsen said roughly 3,600 UI courses use Assessing the Classroom Environment forms, and students often fail to include such specific data as course numbers, sections, and professors' names.

"It's not consistent," he said. "We're hesitant to release the data because it's not uniform."

Moore said teachers are required to evaluate their courses, but not required to use the Assessing the Classroom Environment forms.

Hagle prefers using his own evaluation form because it allows him to ask more course specific questions.

"The [standard] questions are all in the same direction, agree or disagree," he said. "When you're constructing surveys, you should order the questions differently so students don't just run down the list."

Though the evaluation data aren't as helpful as he had expected, Paulsen said UISG leaders will continue to work toward making that information more accessible to students.

"We do want to see something happen," he said. "We want students to have more access to that information if they'd like it."


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