Dear Dr. Kirk:
Our university is considering moving from in-class scantron evaluations to asking the students to complete teaching evaluations online. The faculty are very upset by this move as they believe this change in process means fewer students will do the evals and this will result in lower overall ratings. Can you give me any suggestions on this?
Dean at a University in the Midwest
Dear Dean of Midwest University:
Several years ago, Drake University also moved from in-class to online evaluations and the faculty had the same concerns as yours. Several of my colleagues and I conducted a research study to see what impact the change in process made. The Journal of the Academy of Business Education recently published an article we wrote on our results titled, "Teaching Evaluations: Does the Switch to an Online Process Make a Difference in how College Students Rate Their Professors?"
Some results of our study:
- Switching to an online process did result in a lower participation rate (we found this true at both Drake and other universities).
- When students were asked what incentives it would take to increase participation rates, they tended to say the same things as in previous research studies (extra credit, a drawing for a gift certificate, etc.).
- The process did not make a statistically significant difference in how students rated their professors; however, the online evaluation ratings did tend to be lower than the traditional evaluations overall.
- A major concern of the faculty was that students who were performing poorly in their classes would be more likely to take the time to do the online evaluation and to give their professors a bad evaluation rating. This concern did not seem to be valid; In fact, students with higher grades in the class were more likely to take the time to go online and complete the evaluations than students with lower grades.
One suggestion I would make for any university is to involve the faculty and students in any proposed changes of evaluation method. The initial perception that scores will be negatively affected will engender ill feelings on the part of the faculty. As teaching evaluations have an economic impact on promotion, tenure, and pay raises, schools going to an online process might want to treat the first semester online evaluations with caution and not necessarily compare these to previous scantron ratings. In addition, students should be informed as to how evaluations are used and reassured that the process will be anonymous in order to raise participation rates.
You can access the entire article here: Download Online teaching evals