It’s the end of the semester at U of L, and if you are a student, your email inbox is probably full of reminders to fill out course evaluations. These online forms allow students to voice their opinions about their courses and professors. Recently, however, the course evaluation response rate has not been as high as the university administration would hope.
In fall 2014 the overall response rate was 53 percent, says Robert Goldstein, U of L’s vice president for institutional research. Students completed a combined total of 45,998 course evaluations that year.
As a result, the university, faculty senate and SGA are working together to reconsider the course evaluation process. In order to boost the response rate, U of L is considering withholding final grades until a student completes the evaluation or opts out of the process.
“One of the things we will be piloting, though not broadly instituting, is a process whereby if you fill out your evaluation, or go online and say I don’t want to fill out an evaluation, because we are not trying to coerce into filing out an evaluation in you don’t want to, you’ll be able to get your grade as soon as the faculty member posts it,” said Provost Shirley Willihnganz.
Willihnganz said course evaluations were once completed on paper. When the university switched over to an online system, the response rate dropped.
“These (course evaluations) are really important to our evaluation of how good faculty are — it’s not the only thing, but it’s a thing that really counts — not having a robust return rate is a real worry for us,” said Willihnganz.
Allie Funk, SGA academic vice president for 2014-2015, said U of L looked at successful course evaluation programs at their benchmark universities.
“One way that universities have received successful evaluation rates is by a process of withholding final grades until the evaluation is complete.”
Funk stressed that, at this point, withholding grades is under consideration by U of L.
“Currently, the university is not planning on implementing this right away. Instead, they are simply developing the technology for this to be possible. SGA will be 100 percent in the process of this if it moves forward.”
In addition, the faculty senate and U of L are working together to find a way for students to know how their professors and courses were evaluated by other students.
“SGA has been asking, appropriately, that we do something so that students are aware of how other students are ranking faculty,” said Willihnganz.
She said the results of course evaluations are not open records, but part of the employee evaluation.
“We’re talking to the executive committee of the faculty senate to see how we might be able to protect the sanctity of the student evaluation record, but also give students more knowledge about how students are responding to faculty.”