Incentivizing DePaul course evaluations

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As the end of the quarter approaches, every day I am greeted by an annoying email from “DePaul NoReply.” They flood your inbox at ungodly hours of the night and early mornings. Students are doomed to this email every day until they finally do as it asks: complete their course evaluations.

Like many DePaul students, I ignore these similar, slightly harassing emails. Why spend 10 or even 20 minutes completing a sophisticated survey? How do I win here? What’s in it for me?

It wasn’t until I had a professor that incentivized completing the evaluations that I finally spared 20 minutes of my already procrastinating, Netflix-filled life to complete them.

The evaluation itself is simple. An open white box is provided for you to type down your wishes, complaints or hopes for future courses, and a couple of simple questions are asked about the instructors. Twenty minutes and five extra credit points later, I realized the problem with course evaluations isn’t how long they take to complete, but how reminders to complete them become unwanted spam mail instead of what they were created for.

Course evaluations are a way for students to finally express what they have been feeling about a course or professor all quarter. Feedback can change future courses and even which professors teach them. According to the repetitive email itself, “Your response is critical to evaluating and improving teaching at DePaul. Evaluations are completely anonymous and your instructor will not see the results until he or she has officially posted the grades,” meaning that in theory, you can have a say about the academic future of DePaul without fear of being ostracized or punished for your comments. In reality, few students complete them and few find the need to.

According to the DePaul Teaching Commons website, “To help raise rates of return, faculty are strongly encouraged to allow students in face-to-face courses to fill out evaluations during class time.” Even though I care about my grades and care about the level of competence my professors may have on a subject, even time in class to use my phone on completing them isn’t utilized. For most of my courses this quarter, 15 minutes at the end of class were better spent leaving early and ignoring the constant emails. So why don’t students care?

For DePaul political science professor Joseph Mello, course evaluations completed by students not only help him plan for his future classes but hold a large grain of influence.

“Course evaluations are an important, if somewhat flawed, indicator of faculty performance,” Mello said. “As a faculty member I can tell you that we do read student evaluations, and take the suggestions students make very seriously.”

Regardless of how important it is to complete course evaluations, students will only complete them when incentivized. Give me extra credit or free pizza and I’ll complete them in 15 minutes flat. As students we must be rewarded to complete these evaluations. Sadly, students don’t care about the future of the class on their own, especially given the fact that they no longer have to take the course ever again. Students should care about the future of the course considering they are aware of the power that course evaluations hold, but constant emails can only annoy instead of encourage students to complete them. In order for evaluations to be completed, stuffing it down my throat at 3 a.m. won’t help, but extra credit can’t hurt.