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Putting the Value Back into Student Course Evaluations

By Chanel Sutherland

Course evaluations are one of the most highly-disputed measures of teaching effectiveness amongst educational scholars. Yet, they are still widely used by higher education institutions across the globe, and remain one of the most important tools for evaluating and improving academic quality. Many have argued that the feedback provided by course evaluations does not effectively measure what they claim to assess. Now that semesters are coming to an end, we wanted to look at ways you can update your course evaluation process for next term to meet the evolving needs of your institution.

1-Use Formative and Summative Evaluations

Both course evaluation methods are recommended as they provide instructors with on-going feedback for course adjustments as well as a final review of progress. Educators should begin to gather formative feedback within the first 4-6 weeks of class. This timeframe will give students a reasonable sample of your teaching style allowing them to assess their own learning needs. Summative evaluations are perfect for examining the overall effectiveness of your course so that you can discover areas for improvement. Use course evaluation forms that let students make open-ended suggestions about things that would improve their learning experience. A text analytics tool will help you dig deeper and unlock important themes in qualitative data. With a combination of these methods you will have a more complete picture of your students’ experience.

2-Increase Accessibility and Participation

Your students are on-the-go and always connected. It makes sense that they would want to engage with their institution in the same way. An online course evaluation system such as Blue® will give them the ability to access forms through any web-enabled device including computers, tablets, mobile, and screen readers. This will go a long way in improving course evaluation response rates and feedback quality. Learners can save and revise their evaluations during the allotted period giving them the time they need to provide more meaningful answers. Popular digital tools like apps can serve as another interactive point. Administrators can send push notifications to students who have not submitted their course evaluations prior to the deadline.

3-Integration for Easy Access

Your institution’s course evaluation software should be integrated with the existing campus systems (SIS, LMS, and SSO). This will increase traffic and participation by offering a convenient way for students to access forms through the existing portal without the need to log in again. Administrators can automatically send course evaluation invitations and reminders through one system and will have access to live response rates and historical data that can be used for intelligent decision-making.

4-Inform Students about the Importance of Evaluations

Instructors can play an important role in improving the overall quality of student feedback and response rates. Before distributing course evaluations, let your students know that their feedback is valued. Explain how you use the results to improve the course and provide examples of how evaluations have contributed to the quality of your course in the past. Reward your students for their participation by giving them access to instructor ratings. Students will be more motivated to provide high quality feedback if they understand that their input matters.

Has your institution tried any of the above tactics to increase course evaluations? How might the course evaluation process at your college or university be improved? Comment and let us know.

Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, Explorance

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