Baylor University

Continuing the Shift to Electronic Course Evaluations

April 29, 2013

For more than 35 years Baylor has conducted course evaluations at the end of each term to gather feedback from students. This spring approximately 98 percent of those evaluations will be conducted electronically, continuing a transition that began in spring 2011 with a recommendation by a faculty committee to replace paper with electronic course evaluations.

"Course evaluations are an opportunity for students to shape the courses that future Baylor students will take," said Wes Null, vice provost for undergraduate education. "Pro Futuris calls the University toward judicious stewardship, and electronic course evaluations are a way to help faculty respond to that call. They also offer students a chance to let faculty know how their courses have influenced them and how they can be improved."

Conveniently located on Blackboard where students and faculty can access all evaluations in one place, the electronic evaluations are very similar to the paper versions, but offer added benefits ranging from security and accuracy, to timeliness and customizations.

The electronic evaluations provide students with a two-week time frame, prior to the end of the class, to complete the forms. Because students can complete the evaluations on their own time, rather than the last few minutes of a class period, the electronic process encourages more thoughtful responses, particularly in the open response comment section.

"The Institutional Research and Testing Office (IRT) has done extensive work to compare responses by students who complete evaluations electronically to those who complete them by paper," Null said. "We have seen evidence that students are more inclined to provide longer and more in-depth answers to the written response questions when they are answering from home with their laptops as opposed to rushing to finish during the last five minutes of class."

The quality of the feedback is improved, too. The electronic system allows for customized questions to be added at the school/college, department and instructor levels. The current paper evaluations have been in place, without any changes, for more than 35 years. By using an electronic process, the set of 15 core questions that are asked of every course can be kept, while additional questions specific to the individual course can be added.

With the electronic system, results are available almost as soon as the evaluations are given. In past years IRT would spend hundreds of hours scanning more than 60,000 paper evaluations each semester, which included performing data audits and compiling results one piece of paper at a time. Now, with the electronic process, accurate results can be released as soon as the grade submission process has been closed for the semester.

This year, the course evaluations will be conducted for the first time in a summer term. Previously, summer terms have lacked the time needed for processing, but with electronic evaluations that time is no longer needed.

"Electronic evaluations are a much better use of University resources," Null said. "The electronic system better utilizes student and faculty time, supports the University's green initiative, and provides us with more accurate and timely results - all of which enhance experiences for students and help us to continue to offer a transformational education."

Instructors wishing to know more about the process of electronic course evaluations may email Kathleen Morley. Additional information also is available at www.baylor.edu/irt.

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