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UI Faculty Senate moves forward on online evaluations

BY DANIEL SEIDL | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Change is on the way for those all-too-familiar evaluations nearly every single University of Iowa student is required to fill out each semester.

Following discussion Tuesday afternoon at the UI Faculty Senate meeting, UI officials have opted for a push for faculty evaluations to be moved to an online format on a college-by-college basis. A faculty committee is being formed to outline the policies related to this decision.

The push to put faculty evaluations online is one that should have been done already, said Shelly Campo, a UI associate professor of community and behavioral health.

“We’re kind of a laggard nationally [when it comes to online evaluations],” said Campo, who also serves as the head of the Senate Council on Teaching.

The members of the committee will be announced at the next meeting of the Faculty Senate, Campo said.

A faculty committee is a necessary step to take toward finalizing this decision, she said.

“The issue is that, because of how fast this is moving … There’s got to be more faculty input,” she said.

While the implementation of online evaluations is moving quickly, some faculty members have concerns about the proposed change.

One of the concerns expressed was that the online evaluation wouldn’t be solicit as deep or detailed of a response from students.

Because the online evaluation could be taken at any time, several of the faculty members present were concerned that students would be in a less serious environment when completing an online evaluation.

“I think one of the most important pieces of information [would be] a piece of research that compares in-class evaluations to this online evaluation,” said UI Associate Professor of English Claire Fox.

Concerns, she said, arise from the fact that with the online availability, students will be able to take the evaluations on the go, adding that this may reduce focus and depth of response.

She said it is not out of the realm of possibility that students could fill out the evaluation on their smartphones while at a bar if they are put online.

Some faculty expressed concerns because they are partial to the in-class evaluation format, but Campo said individual colleges would be able to make the decision whether they wanted to keep using the old system of evaluations.

Campo also said there are tangible benefits to making this online move, such as saving paper.

“This could save us a fair amount of money,” she said. “But it depends how it’s implemented.”

The specifics of the online evaluations aren’t fully decided yet, but Campo said that a third-party vendor would likely need to be brought in to design the program.

Though only one faculty member from each college would be on this committee, the choices made would still have to be approved by the Faculty Senate, said Richard Fumerton, a past president of the Faculty Senate.

Fumerton said that it is important that all members of the senate have a say in decisions about this change, because it will affect all faculty members greatly.

Change is happening fast, but Campo said this change needs to be made in order for the UI to stay current with other universities.

“The train has already left the station,” she said.


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