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Friday, September 24, 2021

Online course evaluations being developed

A new online course and faculty evaluation survey is currently being developed, similar to the current end-of-course Scantron evaluations that are currently in place. A limited release is expected at the start of 2013-14 school year, with widespread use expected in 2014-15.

Already in place at UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara. UC Davis is the last major UC campus to implement online course evaluations.

The survey program, Automated Course Evaluations (ACE), is being developed by programmers under the Administrative Application Development Initiative (AADI) at UC Davis.

According to Jeff de Ropp, committee co-chair and department manager of the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department, survey content and use will be at the discretion of individual departments.

“We really wanted a flexible system so different departments can do what they want with it,” he said.

The project began to gain traction when the Special Committee on Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET), suggested that online surveys be developed.

AADI reviewed and evaluated the online surveys at various college campuses, including UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz and UCLA.

The system is being developed to be compatible with the new student portal that will combine all existing portals (SISWeb, MyUCDavis, Class Search Tool) and MyInfoVault, which assists faculty in viewing evaluation results.

“We wanted people to keep doing what they’re doing on paper evaluations and translate that online,” de Ropp said. “Hopefully students will think of it as a more enjoyable way to do evaluations. Doing [them] online is a little more attractive and appealing.”

All survey-taker information will be confidential and any identifying information will be stripped from the survey before the instructor sees it. Additionally, faculty will not be able to view results before they have submitted course grades.

According to de Ropp, the service is being funded by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and will cost approximately $40 a month to host. It will not be mandated on students.

“I think that people in CAES wanted to develop such a system for general use at UC Davis, basically to increase efficiency and reduce costs,” said Benjamin Shaw, AADI co-chair and mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, in an email interview. “Just like with the paper-based evaluations, most courses at UC Davis can be evaluated with ACE. Some exceptions are internships and research courses.”

Scantron course evaluations are processed by one person, de Ropp said, and can take up to six months before results are tabulated. In time, he added, he believes that the online surveys might one day replace hard-copy course evaluations.

Daniel Potter, former SET chair and professor of plant sciences, said his committee was asked by the Academic Senate to consider the implications of having an online survey system in 2010. He said that the teaching evaluations that students complete are the primary source of data on the quality of teaching.

“They give instructors some information on what’s working, what isn’t working, what students like, students’ level of satisfaction,” he said. “It gives students a really important opportunity to express their input, and hopefully realize that it does make a difference.”

De Ropp said that he has heard of some cases where response rates will decrease once paper evaluations become available online, and some universities such as UC Riverside and Stanford University are known to give students incentives for completing them, such as making grades available to students earlier. He said that there are no current plans to implement this.

Online course evaluations are not completely new to UC Davis, as The School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Education have their own systems in place — the School of Veterinary Medicine has had one since 1997.

Unless written consent is granted from a faculty member, survey results are only available to a limited group of individuals and not to the general public, due to privacy restrictions.

Currently, a number of review cycles have been carried out and a sample survey has been sent to a handful of department listservs.

According to de Ropp, a limited trial could be released in Summer Session II.

“With something this big, there needs to be an extensive trial,” de Ropp said.

MUNA SADEK can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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