Washburn moving towards online for paper course evaluations

Robert Burkett / Washburn Review

In an age where paper forms are being phased out, one of the casualties in the move to streamline university systems is the paper course evaluation.

Students that have taken a course at Washburn have at some point filled out a bubble sheet giving their opinions of a course and their instructor’s ability to teach the material. The traditional way in which those surveys are administered will change for some students.

Starting this fall, all students taking online courses and students taking ten pilot traditional courses on campus will fill out their student course evaluations online through a program provided by GAP Technologies Inc., a firm that specializes in software for schools that want their evaluations done via online.

The program collects and tabulates student feedback and provides a more interactive and immediate feedback system for teachers, according to GAP Technologies’ website. The program is designed to allow teachers who are identified as using techniques that are popular with students. The successful teachers are invited to give advice through the message board function of the software to share their strategies with fellow faculty members.

Through applying for a grant from Washburn, Tim Peterson, dean of academic outreach, along with Dan Peterson, associate dean of applied studies, decided to pursue through the installation of this software, which they felt was an issue of concern for faculty.

“Students may not realize but for faculty that are on tenure track, the student evaluations can have an impact on promotions and in the case of adjuncts can decide if they get invited back to teach in following semesters,” said Dan Peterson.

In the case of professors in the school of applied studies, the software can have a profound impact on their future with Washburn through what all involved in the pilot program hopes will be a positive response by students.

“Traditionally we have seen a trend of poor responses from online students who don’t have any incentive to do the evaluations,” said Tim Peterson.

In an attempt to encourage students to get involved with the process of transitioning to the online system, the pilot program budget allows for Washburn to be able to give out five netbooks to students who complete their evaluations.

This prize give out is only an initial enticement to get students interested. The long term solution to the question of whether students will continue to stay engaged in filling out the online forms after the initial prize giveaway is over could take a few different forms.

“We’ve been looking at different options for the future which could be something like getting to see their grades earlier than other students that don’t finish all their evaluations after the end of the semester,” said Caley Onek, president of Washburn Student Government Association.

Onek went onto emphasize that student participation is the only real solution to if the program will remain after the pilot program ends.

With the budget always present on the minds of administration and student government, the issue of savings is another positive for the implementation of the software.

“There aren’t initial savings in the program for Washburn but, long term, the program would have modest savings which in this economic climate is always something that is positive,” said Dan Peterson.