Redeemer to Test Online Course Evaluations in April

Dr. Ben Faber

Students in about a quarter of Redeemer’s courses will be asked to complete their course evaluations online this semester. Instead of filling in the Scantron cards, scribbling a quick comment, and collecting the results in a big brown envelop, students in selected courses will be doing their end-of-term course surveys electronically.

In courses selected for the trial, students will use their regular Redeemer log-in credentials to access a secure webpage. From a drop-down list of participating professors, students will choose the instructor and then the course for which they are completing the evaluation. Then they will select responses to the questions and write comments as they normally would — with a click of the mouse and keystrokes rather than with pencil on Scantron cards. Students can review their responses and revise what they have written in each comment box before clicking “Submit. 

Everything else about the student evaluations remains the same. The questions on the online survey are the same as on the pen-and-paper version. Your responses are kept completely confidential; your name is not included on any information that is passed on to your professor and to his or her dean. The results are not shared with your professor until after the final grades have been submitted. These results will be used for year-end evaluations for your professors and their supervisors, that is, Prof. Spyksma and Prof. Van Weelden. Your evaluations will continue to shape their professional development and the delivery of their courses.

The only difference is the medium. 

Studies done by universities that use online course evaluations reveal that the rate of student participation is generally lower than the rates for pen-and-paper evaluations. The same studies also indicate that, although the number of respondents is lower, the results are statistically the same. In fact, students tend to spend more time with the survey and write more thoughtful, constructive comments when they complete evaluations online.

 The system will check for anomalies, such as an evaluation from a student not enrolled in the course or multiple evaluations from the same student for the same course. These anomalies will be removed to ensure the results are reliable.

When we do the trial run with a limited number of courses this April, professors will still allow students 10-15 minutes of class time to log on, answer the questions, and submit the survey. The online evaluations will remain accessible for a 10-day period, automatically closing at midnight before the first day of final exams. Students will be reminded to complete the online evaluations through Dash and in class in the final week of the term. If this trial run works well, we will consider switching entirely to online student evaluations for the Fall 2016 term. If the test run bombs, then we will return to the Flintstone method of chisel on stone tablet.