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Updated 10:00 AM April 17, 2006
 

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  Faculty governance
Students will evaluate faculty online

The University is joining a growing number of Big Ten schools and other major universities switching from paper to online student faculty evaluations.

In a presentation at the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) meeting April 10, administrators said the Provost's Office has asked Michigan Administrative Information Services (MAIS) to develop an online teaching questionnaire (TQ) system, with a project start date of July 1 and implementation one year later.

Current online ratings users include Brigham Young University, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University and Yale University.

The switch does not affect medical, business or dental faculty, who do not use the TQ system. For faculty who use the system, results are used to make decisions on tenure, hiring, committee membership, awards and even accreditation, said Jim Kulik, director of the Office of Evaluations and Examinations.

Faculty members also use the evaluations to evaluate the teaching done by graduate students. "This system has grown steadily over the past 30 years it has been in existence," Kulik said. Presenting information on the plan with Kulik were Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs; and Holly Nielsen, assistant director, MAIS student administration products and services.

The presenters offered results of two pilot studies at U-M, comparing student response rates with online evaluations versus paper. The studies found 74 percent of engineering undergrads filled out online evaluations, while paper users responded at a rate of 75 percent. More strikingly, they reported that LSA graduate students responded at an online rate of 65 percent, compared to 80 percent via paper.

Presenters suggested students who fill out paper evaluations are captive in the classroom, while students are not as captive when they are asked to evaluate online.

Some SACUA members said they were concerned with lower response rates online and that comments about faculty could be made public. "The University has tried to protect the confidentiality; students do not have access to comments," Kulik said, responding to a question from SACUA member Jens Zorn.

In other criteria, the study found online ratings slightly less favorable of faculty, with engineering undergrads giving an average 3.85 course rating online, compared to 3.95 via paper. LSA graduate students on average gave a 4.28 rating online, compared to 4.45 via paper. The percentage of students making comments was 61 percent online and 63 percent via paper; and the length of written comments was nearly identical.

But while the pilot program showed fewer responses online, Monts said more and more prospective freshmen complete their admissions applications online, evidence that online communications by students continue to grow. "The expectation is that use of the online surveys will grow as well," he said.

Under the TQ system, teachers select questions from a catalog of nearly 1,000 for their evaluation questionnaires, which are machine-readable.

Presenters said the advantages of dropping paper for online evaluations include eliminating clerical bottlenecks, getting instant results as opposed to results weeks after a course has ended, and reduced costs.

SACUA Chair Bruno Giordani suggested administrators could consider ways to allow students to perform online evaluations while in class by using remote control type devices with number and yes-no buttons.

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