[teknoids] Question re online course evaluations

Wayne Miller wmiller at law.duke.edu
Wed May 21 10:38:33 EDT 2008

I would say that evaluations are collected to capture the outliers - the very good and the very bad - and otherwise document in an institutional and bureaucratic sense that, yes, teaching is going on.
My own experience over many years is that you usually can tell what the results will be, but that students are quite capable of telling you something you don't want to acknowledge or even surprising you with insight. 10 minutes is a long time if you put your mind to it.
But this anecdote may also shed light on the problem John is poking at. We introduced online course evaluations back in 2003, using the same set of questions as the previous (then years-old) paper form. Response rates were not as good as in the paper era, so we considered requiring students to complete their evaluations. We were one step away from that, but a few strongly negative voices among the faculty caused a complete shift. A three-year 'experiment' of only-paper evaluations was approved. We had hoped to redo the form itself with a smaller, more rational and hopefully more productive set of questions, but that revision was always tabled as we dealt with the online-paper question. Now that paper seems to have won, the weight of inertia will probably end the revision of the form itself.
There's not a hint in the evaluation about anything having to do with technology, as if we were in a Paper Chase time warp.

>>> On 5/20/2008 at 5:24 PM, "John Mayer" <jmayer at cali.org> wrote:
I have barely been paying attention to this thread, but now I am intrigued....

What is it that you (that's the institutional "you") hope to
accomplish by getting 90-100% response rates on a 10 minute survey
from your students?   You really can't get too much substantive
information or any deep values information in 10 minutes (IMHO) and
you can probably predict within 10% the answer to any question on a
course evaluation form what students will say by asking any 3 random

1 will say they loved the teacher the course
1 will say they hated his ties
1 will say everything was "fine"

Ok, that's pretty weak, but do you see what I am getting at?  Do you
(again, the institution) want student feedback to confirm that your
faculty are teaching?  ... that faculty are "good" teachers?   that
students are happy?  ... that there is something that you could be
doing to make them happier?  I am honestly curious.


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