New online teacher evaluations cut costs

Sonoma State University has found a way to save itself $10,000 per year by saying goodbye to hand-written teacher evaluations and bidding hello to the new online format. 

Aside from saving money, it also grants instantaneous access to each student’s response, rather than having to manually type out each response to generate the evaluation data—per class, per teacher, per student, per semester. 

“We have hundreds of classes, and about 40,000 paper SETEs [Student Evaluation of Teaching Effectiveness] would have been distributed if we had not gone to online this semester,” said Assistant Vice President for Faculty Affairs Melinda Barnard in an e-mail response. 

In addition, the whole feedback process for teachers will be much more efficient, allowing for more timely feedback for teachers, according to Barnard. With a quicker response time, teachers will be able to see what things are working in a particular class and what things are not, allowing them to adjust for future semesters. 

“It’s more sustainable and that’s our goal,” said Iman Rashed, the chair of the Associated Students Senate. “It’s been an Associated Students initiative for a while to move everything to be more sustainable.”;

Many universities, such as the University of Connecticut, the University of Oregon, Georgetown University and Purdue have already implemented an online method of teacher evaluations.

In 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie expressed hopes of putting teacher evaluations online. No more than a year later, several universities in Oregon began to switch over from written to online. Today, there are countless universities currently in the midst of plans to make the switch as well. 

Indeed, to some students who enrolled in courses over the summer, this may seem like old news. This is because the university ran a “pilot” of the new system over the summer, with 14 participating courses. 

Many students took a liking to the new system calling it “excellent, effective, reasonable, and responsive,” and saying “the format is great and it is easy to navigate,” according to comments made in the review.  

One student went as far as saying, “Much better than paper, in-class surveys. The ones done in class end up wasting time because teachers do them at the beginning of class and leave for like 20 minutes. I did this survey in less than five minutes and wasted no class time.”  

In that same summer sample, 66 percent of eligible students participated in filling out the evaluations.

However, numbers don’t exist for paper evaluations because the data was never kept except by individual classes.

Barnard expects to see a good response rate once the new system takes hold, especially if teachers provide incentives or time in class for students to fill it out on their mobile devices and laptops.

“I think to have them online if professors give students time to do them during class because a lot of time students won’t do them,” said Mallory Rice, a senator of the Associated Students. “I know at one of our previous senate meetings, someone had commented that other universities that have switched to online system showed similar output of student responses from online to paper.”  

Completing the evaluations has been designed to be just as simple as filling out the old paper surveys. 

Students will still answer the same questions, except they will receive an e-mail notifying them that there is a survey available for them to take. There will even be a link in the e-mail to take them straight to the survey, making it as quick and easy for students as possible. A link to the survey will also appear on each student’s Moodle page. 

An e-mail will be sent out within the next month reminding students to fill out their evaluations.