University College Absalon
New teaching evaluation system needed to support quality assurance as required for Danish institutional accreditation, desired automation of end-of-semester surveys process and ability to extract common data across programmes.
- Greater flexibility and diversity
- Supporting centralised system
- Focused questions enabling programme comparisons
- Improved engagement from staff and students
- Potential for other evaluations
From decentralised to centralised practices
University College Absalon, a higher education institution with seven professional centres across seven campuses in the region of Zealand in Denmark, awarded Explorance a contract to supply teaching evaluations in 2021-22. This followed a competitive tender which saw the institution seek a software solution for a new evaluation system to replace its existing set-up which uses results from around 1,300 surveys as part of its quality assurance processes.
With approximately 9,500 students on 13 professional bachelor degrees, 3,500 students on 15 postgraduate programmes and 750 employees, University College Absalon is the central driver for education and growth in the region. However, Head of Quality Christian Moldt explained how it wanted a system that could create evaluations automatically, offer more diversity and flexibility in terms its ability to ask different questions, and be more user-friendly.
“We have used very different evaluation programmes over the years, some qualitative and some quantitative, which is quite normal in universities, and in 2017-18 we implemented a new Danish system which replaced a decentralised practice but did not work very well from a technical perspective,” Christian explained. “Students were waiting for responses whilst completing questionnaires, and teachers were waiting for reports, and it was unsustainable in the end. The institutional accreditation process identified that we needed a new system and a more effective approach to teaching evaluations. It made sense to go with one centralised system and one strategy that everyone agrees on.”
“Confidence” through prior experience of Blue
Another member of the institution’s Quality Department previously worked with Explorance at Copenhagen Business School and so there was prior knowledge that Blue could fulfil University College Absalon’s requirements.
“Evaluations are a central part of all quality assurance systems, and Blue was tried and tested, so there was confidence within our team,” Christian said. “We also needed to make sure that specific Danish accreditation criteria could be built in, for example study load, as the best way to fulfil those institutional regulations. We are very pleased with the results to date. We did some evaluations in summer 2022, and are now aiming for full implementation by summer 2023 with all full-time programmes being in the system.”
Within Blue, there are a small number of fixed institutional and departmental questions in the twice-yearly end-of-semester evaluations. “Common questions around core programmes ensure useful data – we can also compare programmes as we are using the same set of questions,” he revealed. “Our expectation is that teachers will then spend their time having a supporting qualitative discussion with students around this in class. This approach has been very well received and the system is very likeable. It definitely works much better than the old system and the functionality is greatly improved.”
Student ownership in evaluation process
Christian added that by “reducing the amount of teaching evaluations, and making them more meaningful for students”, there is potential for better insight to inform the structure of each programme. “We have done a lot of testing with the questions, and students have also observed that the system is better than the old one, with fewer questions to answer and these being better formatted,” he said. “The wider process encourages students to take ownership of their own total learning experience. How they become better students by evaluating how things have gone, and in evaluation by discussion.”
Initial reports that have gone to programme leaders have been “very well received”, and reports will go to university leaders once the system is fully implemented. “The functionality is where Blue really shines on a number of levels,” Christian said. “If we want to do some extra deeper evaluation on certain programmes we can also do that in Blue. It is very flexible that way, and this is why we centralised the whole process.”
He went on to list a number of other practical success measures, including the stability of the system and “simply working in a way where there are not too many problems”, and staff training in terms of “enough people know about Blue”.
Cultural alignment and opportunities for more insight
Separately, staff in the institution’s Quality Department have “realised there are more opportunities with Blue than we were originally expecting”.
Christian commented: “We have gone much deeper into the system and done more with data structure that we had initially planned, but as a result we have become more ambitious that way. We are also very clear that if it is working we will get a lot of information to compare programmes, first semester experience, progression, what we learn and how we act upon it, and where we need to improve. Culturally, Blue also integrates with the way that we do our education: we are not evaluating teachers, only teaching.”
University College Absalon is enjoying being part of the wider Explorance community, Christian added. “Explorance are great, and the people are very engaged. I would definitely recommend them to other organisations in Denmark and beyond, but they have to be prepared to put resources into it. With an expert system you need to have expertise, and a department and environment around it to support it. We are very happy with Blue and with the level of support received. Our feedback is entirely positive.”
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