Online course evaluations are more in-depth
Instead of filling out course evaluations in class, last spring around two-thirds of Washington University students in selected classes completed them online. Now, in an effort to better help students decide which courses to register for next semester, course evaluations from a large handful of classes in each school are available online through WebSTAC.
“It’s such a boon for students,” said Henry Biggs, director of undergraduate research and associate dean of Arts and Sciences, who helped design the new evaluations program. “I think it’s going to be neat when students see the results of their work [from last spring].”
Planning for the project began five years ago when Richard Smith, chair of the anthropology department, acknowledged that the current evaluation system was lacking in specific content. Working with several others, Smith developed better templates and questions that would correspond more with the needs of certain classes.
Instead of dispensing the same course evaluation forms to every class, the new program allows professors to ask up to three questions directly pertaining to the classes they teach. According to Biggs, this allows for “more teacher feedback.”
The updated evaluations also publish the responses to all of the questions asked on the survey. Unlike the old results, which only allowed students to view the feedback from twelve questions, a bar graph of overall class satisfaction, a pie chart of whether students would recommend the class to a friend and general class requirements, the latest version gives students the opportunity to further investigate classes.
With responses from over 23 questions ranked on a scale from one to seven, students can view the results as either detailed averages or as bar graphs. Class requirements are also listed.
New evaluations also allow students to more efficiently navigate through course listings.
“The old evaluations seem to allow you to skim through the courses more easily,” said sophomore Marcus Gostelow. “But the new one is more in depth.”
“I think [students] can more easily query,” said Biggs. “If you simply want to query in computer science, all classes in the pilot of Arts and Sciences [will show up].”
Biggs also noted that the WebSTAC program allows cross-listing between the University’s different schools. If a student wants to search for a specific teacher or type of class, the program will list all courses regardless of division. Arts and Sciences currently leads the other schools with 220 listed classes, and University College already has about 50 classes. The art school has posted 20 classes, and the business school is off to a slow start with around three courses on the new program.
Sophomore Dan Willis had mixed feelings about the new evaluations.
“I think they are clearer,” he said. “But some of the classes I plan to take, like higher level French, don’t seem to be listed yet.”
The project end-date for posting all current classes online is Jan. 1, 2005.
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