SUU RECEIVES HIGH RETURN ON STUDENT EVALUATIONS, SAVES THOUSANDSDecember 15, 2005
Author: Renee Ballenger
This semester Southern Utah University conducted its Student Evaluation of Faculty and Courses online for the first time, and found it to be more successful than expected.
Moreover, the new system seems to be a win-win, times two, situation as it is good for students, faculty, staff and the University as a whole.
Kirstan Andrews, a senior from Monticello, Utah, likes submitting her evaluations of her classes electronically, much better than the now-seemingly-prehistoric method. “I was able to do it on my own time. I usually didn’t fill out the Comments section when I had to write the evaluation out by hand, right there in class. This time I did because I had time to think about what I wanted to write.” Besides that, Kirstan, a Natural Resources/Environmental Studies major, feels good about saving the paper previously needed to process evaluations.
Apparently, this is a general consensus among students as a 62 percent rate of return was received on electronic, voluntary student evaluations! That’s 12 percentage points above the amount of student evaluations returned this time last year, and 15 points improvement on the average rate of return over the last three years. “We had about 17,000 duplicated students fill out evaluations this semester,” University Provost Abe Harraf happily reports. “We are very pleased with this initial turnout. It’s very promising as the average turnout at other universities that have been doing electronic evaluations for five years is about 50 percent.”
It was the Provost who introduced the idea of “going electronic” in the area of student evaluations, and it was a sub-committee of the Faculty Senate, chaired by Judy Higbee, Assistant Professor of Secondary Education, that researched how to incorporate such a program and ran a pilot test in one of last summer’s school sessions.
With this new way of obtaining evaluations from students, faculty now can review the feedback within 24 hours after it was submitted as opposed to the sometimes-three-month turnaround before, when all the information had to be handled manually. “Now faculty can incorporate changes and improvements, according to students, immediately into their lesson plans for the next semester,” Dr. Harraf exclaims.
Additionally, more courses can be more comprehensively evaluated because costs, resources and labor are all extensively reduced. “We saved $10,000 this semester by incorporating the electronic method,” Dean O’Driscoll, Assistant to the President, reports. “Before, the cost of the paper medium combined with the time and materials it took for departmental secretaries to input, process and report on thousands of evaluations was very expensive and obviously not the most efficient means.”
“Students should know that we take their input very seriously on evaluations,” Dr. Bruce Barker, Dean of the College of Education, states. “The student responses are given to all faculty and are reviewed by the department chairs and the dean. They give us valuable feedback on what we are doing well and areas where improvement is needed.”
On top of the University-wide figure of 62 percent, the College of Education experienced a 65 percent return on evaluations of courses administered through its college. All of the other colleges, including the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, received feedback in the 60th percentile.
Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.