Thursday, December 1, 2016

In Which Bella Laughs at the Uselessness of Online Evals

We went to paperless student evaluations about five years ago. Now, none of our students do student evaluations (like 1-3% in a semester). We have been threatened. We have been cajoled. We have been "required' to make the student evaluation completion a "for credit" assignment (as in: the admin told us to give the class five extra points on something if 85% or more did the evals).

At one point, I actually tried to get them to do the online evaluations! I walked them to the computer lab, stood in front of the class and read the handout explaining how to access the class/professor evaluation link, and then stayed at the front watching them do something on the computer for fifteen minutes, their screens of course not facing me as I would never try to see what they were writing when they are doing evaluations!!

After class was over, I went to my office computer to see how many evaluations had been completed for that class: none. N.O.N.E. Those little fuckers were reading email, gambling, and/or looking at porn while I stood up there watching them, making sure they did not leave while they were supposed to be filling out evaluations telling me what a shit I was. That was it! I don't even mention the student evaluations any more, not to one student.

Our college actually has the WORST completion rate of any college in our state system, but none of the colleges and U's have an even "good" rate of completion. And you know what? This year, they made an announcement at the state level: we are going back to paper evaluations.


  1. We get a high completion rate simply because we don't let them see their grades online until they do the eval. They don't want to wait for a report card. I'd prefer we go back to the paper evaluations. I usually get a small number of students who cut a lot of classes. If they aren't in the classroom, why should they evaluate me?

  2. I offer points on the final (not enough to make a real difference, but enough to sound good) and it helps. I set the bar at 90%, and usually get in the upper 80% range. So I don't have to give unearned points, but my Dean is happy the response percentage is high.

  3. I told my Dean I would never validate evals unless 50% or more students completed them. Department-wide we get about 20% since going all in on online evals, I couldn't be happier.

    I love how my phone keeps autocorrecting evals to evils!

  4. We did online. Dropped to about 10%. Went back to paper. Up to 60-80%.

    Guess what this year's NEW POLICY is? Yup, online. To improve response rates.

    I do not get it.

    --Grumpy Academic-- (who said this before but is now saying it here).

    Evils for sure!

  5. Here's some flava from the communique we received at my uni:

    "The Office of the Provost strongly recommends all instructors who teach classes that meet face-to-face provide students the opportunity to complete course evaluations in class using their laptops, smart phones or tablets."

    OK, so all that stuff at orientation about how classroom hours are tied to our accreditation and classes MUST MEET come hell or high water, we meant that, but we didn't mean instruction actually has to be taking place?

    Another suggestion:

    "Give students a response rate goal and reward them for achieving it (e.g. if 80% of evaluations are submitted, you will bring in cupcakes, candy, allow notecard during exam, etc.)."

    SERIOUSLY? Never mind that with the number of students I teach, providing cupcakes for all of them would be my phone bill. A notecard during exams? Sure, folks, in order to give you extra ammo you can use to cast doubt on my professional performance in the future, I'd be happy to lower my standards in the classroom. WTF.

    1. At least your Provost approves of incentives to complete the surveys. I got dinged for offering extra credit equaling one-half-of-one-percent when I distributed my own survey (plug plug plug for my comment below).

    2. Buy cupcakes. Send the provost the bill.

  6. I'd often heard that profs should distribute a midterm course evaluation. Word was that we'd engage our students (oh, that mantra) and get better feedback 'cuz they'd not yet reached end-of-semester exhaustion.

    That sounded like a peachy-keen idea to me. My graduate research courses put a goodly emphasis on how to write a good survey, so I whipped up a relatively short but comprehensive text-box survey and focused the questions around the theme of improving my courses. I then offered the students a totally meaningless one-point bonus for completing the survey (which would be worth around one-half of one percent of their final grade), and distributed it via Survey Monkey.

    Whaddya know...the students actually completed the damn thing, and they gave me useful info.

    So, naturally, when I mentioned this survey in my third-year review materials, I got dinged for it, and the dean's letter said that using a survey of this sort was "at best, awkward."


    1. That makes zero sense. The midterm survey is actually useful because I can make changes and it benefits those students. Sure, they ask for easier exams but they also ask me to write more neatly and other practical stuff like that.

    2. Yeah, what? That is absolutely smart, and recommended by lots of education researchers. Do you think it would've gone over better if you called it a "formative assessment?" (j/k)

  7. Am I right in thinking that student evals exist in the first place because students of a different, more activist generation demanded them, and the administration gave in? If so, there's a certain amount of irony in the way they now exist to serve the administration, and students seem to be doing everything they can to avoid filling them out.

  8. Our students are extra-credit whores. They'll do anything for extra credit. They do more work on extra credit than on the actual assignments that provide more points. So as soon as our evals went online on their LMS, people have offered extra credit to their students to do them and they get 90-100% response rates. I don't offer credit and I get 5%. And I am completely okay with that.


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