Changes made to course evaluations at DePaul

University hopes course evaluation changes will lead to increased response rate

It’s that time of the quarter for endless emails from the university begging students to fill out their course and teacher evaluations. But with low response rates across the university, they’re hoping that a new responsive and mobile-friendly platform will help fix that problem.

The main reason behind the updates are to raise response rates, improve the student experience and give back the option to students and faculty to complete evaluations during class time, said GianMario Besana, the associate provost for global engagement and online learning.

“The overall aesthetic are much improved,” Besana said. “The application is now Web responsive, meaning that the server recognizes what kind of device the user us using to access the system.”

The updates are expected to be available for winter quarter evaluations. The new application will now remember your location in the evaluation if you lose your connection while filing out the evaluation on the train, for example. The new interface also displays the instructor’s name and photo to help avoid students filling out the wrong evaluation.

During a discussion at the November Faculty Council meeting, one faculty representative said, “This is probably going to give a better response rate than the current system.”

The university used to facilitate the evaluations by scantron and pencil, which required them to be filled out in class.

“This is a way to encourage students to do their evaluations in class like they did with paper and pencil, to get these response rates up,” one faculty representative said.

If a faculty member chooses to allow students to fill out the evaluations in class, the policy states that they must include it in their syllabus, let students know in advance, allow students enough time to fill out the evaluation and leave the room while students complete the evaluations, Besana said.

Along with these updates, DePaul’s Student Government Association continues to push for student accessible course evaluation data in each college at the university. Currently, the School of New Learning, The Theatre School, The College of Law and the College of Computing and Digital Media display course evaluation data to students in CampusConnect, SGA President Matthew von Nida said.

The Driehaus College of Business and College of Science and Health just approved student data in June and expect for it to be rolled out spring quarter.

“The focus has actually been in talking with faculty, talking to students to see what they’re interested in getting and then talking to faculty to see what they think would be the best option,” von Nida said. However, von Nida recognizes that “some faculty are not entirely behind this initiative.”

“Many faculty members are concerned that putting course evaluations online, as some colleges do currently, makes public a portion of the private personnel file of a faculty member,” said Bamsahd Mobasher, faculty council vice president and CDM professor.

Faculty Council President Michaela Winchatz declined to comment and deferred all questions to Mobasher.

Course evaluations at DePaul and many other universities serve primarily as a tool for instructors to improve their teaching in the context of specific courses. They are also used in the tenure and promotion process for tenure-track faculty, Mobasher explained.

“Some faculty members consider the public dissemination of evaluation data analogues to the public dissemination of student grades in courses,” Mobasher said. “The main issues is that course evaluations were never designed to provide feedback to students to help them select courses or instructors.”

SGA has circulated surveys at different colleges to leverage data in their argument for student accessible course data. However, von Nida said that students are looking for a combination of course and teacher information.

“I think (students) are looking at what could be the most beneficial to their academic experience,” von Nida said.

However, Faculty Council believes there could be a better indicator to evaluate teaching.

“Faculty Council believes that the university should try to identify more comprehensive models for evaluating teaching that go beyond student course evaluations,” Mobasher said.