USU studies student evaluations
University working out kinks in IDEA course evaluations as they examine comments
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 00:10
The online IDEA course evaluations students receive at the end of the semester are here to stay, but university officials are trying to make them more convenient for students to take.
Michael Torrens, director of analysis, assessment, and accreditation at USU, held a workshop last week for faculty on the IDEA rating system as part of the Provost’s Series on Instructional Excellence.
Emails are sent out to students at the end of the semester asking them to evaluate their courses. The information is used by professors to improve their own methods, by the university in the retention and promotion of faculty and for accreditation purposes, according to Torrens.
Torrens said he’s talked to students who say they don’t see the point of the evaluations, but he wants students to know the data is actively used and he encourages students to participate.
In order for the data to be accurate, professors need a response rate above 65 percent from their classes.
Poor response rates are due to a “self-selecting bias,” Torrens said. Often the students who are most motivated to respond are those with strong negative feelings toward the class and professors, which reflects badly in the results.
In the past, the emails asking students to respond went out every three days and often in the middle of the night.
Damon Cann, a political science professor, said late-night emails are bad for the survey results.
“I know the bandwidth is cheaper, but if you annoy the students right before they respond, that’s going to affect the way they respond to the survey,” Cann said.
The university receives complaints about getting too many late-night emails. Torrens said the university lowered the rate of emails being sent to every five days because he got so many messages about it. If students take more surveys with the lowered rate, the reminders will keep dropping.
According to Torrens, students only participate in course evaluations when it’s meaningful to them.
If it’s something extra to the class, response rate tends to be lower. If the evaluation is seen as integral to the course, response rates tend to be higher, Torrens said.