Miami University takes its first step toward moving to online course evaluations this week as a select number of sprint classes test CollegeNet's platform, "What Do You Think" (WDYT), with the goal to move all classes to online course evaluations by fall of 2013.
“The new system will improve teaching and learning," said Mike Curme, chair of the ad hoc committee on teaching course evaluations and associate dean of Miami’s Farmer School of Business. “After considerable research, we are convinced implementing electronic course evaluations will be a positive way for students to provide valuable feedback and for faculty to receive the information in a timely manner.”
Through an extensive research phase, the committee learned that faculty members receive more and better-written comments with online evaluations. A 24-hour turnaround time for results allows faculty to make adjustments to courses while everything is still fresh in their minds, Curme added. In addition, online evaluations provide a standardized, digital data set on courses across all divisions that can be merged with other internal data sources for institutional research.
Developed for Stanford University, CollegeNet’s WDYT was selected for its flexibility and potential cost savings to Miami. It is currently being used at Stanford, Princeton and Oregon universities, in addition to others. University of Oregon estimates an annual savings of roughly $200,000 from moving to online course evaluations. Miami’s cost for the platform includes a $40,000 one-time fee once Miami adopts the product and a $23,800 annual fee.
CollegeNet provided Miami with the opportunity to test the product this fall. At the end of this semester, at least two departments from each division will participate in the fall pilot phase. Curme said that communication to faculty and students is under way to encourage full participation, as some faculty members have expressed concerns about the potential for low response rates.
“Faculty encouragement and student knowledge of the importance of evaluations are the largest mitigating factors here,” he said.
PR Visions, a Miami student-run public relations agency, is working with the committee and launches its publicity campaign the week of Oct. 17.
Ursula Cauffiel, a Miami junior strategic communication major and member of PR Visions, said, “Course evaluations empower students by allowing us to provide thoughtful feedback that improves instructors' teaching styles and our ability to learn. The faster turnaround time offered by online evaluations will allow professors to receive instant feedback and give them the opportunity to immediately implement positive improvements in the classroom.”