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Updated 11:00 PM September 15, 2008
 

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Saving paper, time: Teaching evals now online

The University has moved to online teaching evaluations.

After a limited rollout in the College of Engineering during the fall and winter semesters last year, the online version of the University's Teaching Questionnaires (TQ) has become fully operational, saving paper for the University and providing other important benefits for faculty, students and academic units.

"Instructors will receive evaluation results more quickly and they will find it easier to customize TQs specific to their needs," says James Kulik, director and research scientist at the Office of Evaluations and Examinations (E&E), which administers the TQ system. "The online system also guarantees students greater anonymity, is more ecologically responsible, and provides considerable cost savings to the University, which processed 500,000 TQ forms last year."

Paper-based evaluation systems required the printing, mailing, sorting, and scanning of hundreds of thousands of forms each semester. Online systems eliminate the clerical bottleneck, and teachers will receive their results as soon as they submit class grades. With a paper system they sometimes had to wait weeks for results.

Another advantage of the system is that it provides more flexibility in designing the questionnaires, allowing greater customization for individual classes or instructors.

A nine-member task force appointed by Provost Teresa Sullivan in 2006 and headed by Prof. Gary Herrin recommended the paperless system. E&E will continue to be the administrator, and most features of the previous system are preserved. Michigan Administrative Information Services and the CTools Implementation Group jointly have designed and built the online evaluation infrastructure.

Here's how the process will work:

• Faculty and departments will choose questions according to each unit's procedures and then submit orders online. In some departments administrative assistants will carry out this task, in others faculty members and GSIs will order their own.

• Students will receive e-mails directing them to My Workspace in CTools where they can complete online forms for the classes in which they are enrolled. Like the previous printed forms, the online TQ will ask students for teaching ratings and comments. Reminders will be sent to students who do not respond.

• After they submit grades, instructors will be able to view and download student comments and electronic reports that summarize quantitative data. As always the decision of who beyond the instructor can see the ratings and comments is determined by each unit.

The task force studied experiences from other universities and found that a successful transition to online evaluations required considerable communication to students about the importance of their participation, Kulik says.

"The Task Force learned from those other universities that online systems initially may result in some drop in student participation and slightly lower scores," he says. "As we implement this campuswide, we need to make sure students get the message that their feedback is very important to their instructors."

E&E will conduct an extensive campaign to get the message to students. It also has prepared a short presentation that explains the system to faculty and staff.

For more information go to the E&E Web site www.umich.edu/~eande/tq/onlineevals.htm.

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