Students at the University of Rhode Island are now able to complete course evaluations online, a change from previous years when all course evaluations were done on paper.
Chris Barrett, a senior information technologist and professor at the University, said there is a total of 72,000 evaluations posted online for the semester. Every student has a course evaluation they can fill out for each course they are enrolled in.
Barrett said that neither instructors or administrators will be able to see who completed the evaluations. This means that just like the paper evaluations, the online evaluations will remain anonymous.
A change that will occur as a result of the course evaluations being done online is how quickly instructors receive feedback from the evaluations. Barrett said the paper course evaluations would take anywhere from six months to a year to be assessed and have the information returned to teachers. With the course evaluations now being done online, instructors will receive feedback three days after final grades are submitted.
A public relations class, Introduction to Event Management, organized a booth in the Memorial Union on Tuesday, April 24, and Wednesday, April 25, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. to inform students about the University’s switch to online course evaluations. The class was contacted by the company that oversees the course evaluations to help spread awareness about this change.
Ellie Ringer, a sophomore public relations and communications double major in the public relations class promoting the evaluations said instructors will now be able to take into account the feedback they receive from this semester’s course evaluations when they are planning their courses for next semester.
“It’s important students fill them out because they can impact next semester,” Ringer said.
Additionally, with the course evaluations being done online, Barrett said instructors, the chair of the department and the dean of the college can see any comments that students write on the evaluations. With the paper evaluations, instructors never saw the written comments that students could write.
Barrett also said instructors will now be able to ask custom questions on the online course evaluations. Furthermore, Barrett said instructors can emphasize certain learning outcomes on the evaluations. This can be done by using a higher weighting on outcomes more relevant to a course and using a lower weighting on outcomes not as relevant to the course.
The Chief of Staff at the University, Michelle Curreri, said the course evaluations being done online allows for more convenience. Curreri is also the professor of the public relations class that is promoting the online evaluations. She said students can now do the evaluations whenever they want over a two week span. Curreri said that before, if a student came late to class or did not come to class on the day course evaluations were being done, they may not have been able to do the evaluations. She said that is no longer an issue, as students have a longer time to complete the evaluations since they are online.
Ringer said if the evaluations are completed outside of class, there is more class time available that does not have to go towards completing evaluations. Instructors are able to use such class time to review for final exams or let students work on final projects. She said instructors are still able to use class time for students to complete evaluations if they don’t want to do them for homework.
Barrett said the online course evaluations are done through Campus Labs, the technology provider, and the IDEA Center, the company that determines the questions on the evaluations. Barrett said that before URI switched to online evaluations, the IDEA Center only had two customers nationwide that were still doing paper evaluations, URI being one of those schools. Barrett said it was time the University switched to online evaluations. “It is the 21st Century, after all,” Curreri said.
Cynthia Blanthorne, a business professor, supported the change to online evaluations. She said URI was behind on making the switch to online evaluations and it was a good idea to finally make the change. Even though the course evaluations can be completed outside of class, she plans to give her students time in class to complete them.
Blanthorne said professors being able to see the feedback shortly after the course evaluations are completed is beneficial. Previously, instructors were not able to modify their courses based on feedback because feedback was not returned quickly enough.
Anne Hume, a pharmacy professor, also supported the change to online course evaluations. She said the paper course evaluations took too long to be returned.
“As faculty, we’ll receive the students’ [evaluations] much more rapidly, so I can make changes for next spring’s courses,” Hume said. “Also, I’ll be able to read the students’ comments. When we did online evaluations the first time, I received great, thoughtful comments that I was able to use to improve my teaching.”
Chelsea Son, a junior at the University, thinks the online evaluations are easier than the paper evaluations, saying they are easier to access and complete. She said some instructors are giving students extra points if the evaluations are completed, making students more motivated to do them.
Students have until May 1 at 11:59 p.m. to complete the evaluations, each taking no more than 15 minutes to complete. All evaluations are anonymous and instructors will not receive them until final grades have been submitted, meaning students cannot be punished for submitting poor reviews. Barrett said all students should fill out the evaluations for their courses.
“We can only make your learning experience better if you help us,” Barrett said.