Online course evaluation participation decreases

University officials say student participation in online course evaluations have dropped by nearly 20 percent in the last two school years.

The Office of Institutional Research said when the assessments switched from paper to Internet-based in the fall of 2007, student participation was at 59 percent. But participation has steadily declined to 40 percent after the spring of 2009.

Students are e-mailed course evaluations for their classes during the last few weeks of each semester. These evaluations ask the students to rate their course-load difficulty and pace of learning the material.

Dr. Marie Mark, coordinator of student course evaluations for the office of institutional research, said part of the reason for the dip in student feedback might be because “there is a lack of awareness in how important the evaluations are.”

“It is the only means students have of anonymously evaluating courses,” she said.

Mark said the online evaluations are more beneficial to professors than previous versions because feedback is provided in a more timely fashion.

“Before, it took almost a year to get the results,” she said.

Robert Foreman, an English professor, said he felt the evaluations “are not throw-away surveys.”

“It is hard for us to tell as educators how [students] feel about a class,” Forman said. “We can sense a response, but we need evidence.”

Senior Anibal Cordero said that students may choose not to take the survey due to other commitments.

“If you have 18 credits, you don’t want to
take the time to answer the surveys,” he said.

Cordero said he thinks one way to increase student participation is to make the course evaluations mandatory.

“If you give the student an option, they will choose not to do it,” he said. “If it is made a requirement, students will
do it.”

Mark said the Office of Institutional Research has done many things to try to boost awareness for course evaluations, including sending multiple e-mail reminders to students and placing messages on St. John’s Central and in Montgoris Dining Hall and Marillac Food Court.

Mark said low turnout for course evaluations is a problem experienced in other colleges and universities, but concludes that the effectiveness of the surveys requires “the support of students, faculty and administrators.”

“It is not just a student issue or a faculty issue,” she said. “The higher the participation rate is, the more valid and useful the information will be for professors and the University.”