END OF AN ERA
No more number two pencils and bubble answer sheets—evaluations are moving online to a system called EvaluationKIT.
The online evaluations include the same questions asked for years on paper forms.
The old system involved specialized bubble answer sheets, filled out in pencil, with space for written comments. Each sheet was then put through a scantron—a device used to scan prepared forms used for multiple-choice exams—to collect the data.
With EvaluationKIT, if a student has a course that needs to be evaluated, they will receive an email with a link to the online form to be completed on any device at any time by May 12.
“I think the new system is great,” Civitas director Bill Swart said. “I hope students find it’s more convenient and certainly more streamlined.”
Augustana adopted the scantron system around 1987 and updated the machine in the early 2000s.
“We looked at the scantron and got worried,” said Sharon Gray, director of instructional technology. “It’s getting old and we didn’t know if it could make it through another round.”
This is not the first time EvaluationKIT has been used at Augustana.
The university started using the program in 2010 to evaluate online summer classes. Last fall, the biology and chemistry departments used the program to evaluate their courses.
While the program provides benefits, some concerns from the faculty caused implementation hesitation.
“Some are afraid the participation rates might drop,” Gray said.
Having a person bring the evaluations and wait in the room made participation rates near 100 percent, said Mitch Kinsinger, associate vice president for academic affairs.
However, nothing can make students participate online.
“I receive a whole bunch of different emails about surveys and think I’ll go back and do them, but I always forget,” sophomore Jenna Glassburner said. “I just don’t know if I’d do it.”
EvaluationKIT comes with a reminder system which might alleviate forgetfulness.
“If a student doesn’t fill out an eval, it will send out a reminder a certain amount of days before it’s due,” Gray said. “Depending on if the student does it, it might send up to three or four emails.”
Professors also have the option to dedicate time in class to the surveys.
“Augustana students seem genuinely interested in giving feedback,” Gray said. “They are eager to give their voice and improve teachers.”
Evaluations play an important role. They are used in deciding if a professor is eligible for a promotion or tenure, as well as enabling the professor to improve the course. Evaluations are not taken lightly, Kinsinger said.
Additionally, EvaluationKIT will save time.
The old system forced faculty to transcribe the handwritten comments themselves.
“After the deadline for submitting grades, instructors will receive an email with a link to view their evaluation results,” Gray said. “When the comments had to be transcribed, it would take until August to get the results back.”
Students also benefit.
“It should allow the students to answer more truthfully and give them more time to answer,” French professor Scott Fish said. “It also works into their own schedule.”
There is no limit to the textbox comment section, and, since students can do the evaluations outside of class, they have more time to write.
An online system allows more room for change in the future.
The option to add questions or weigh different classes is a possibility to be considered.
“Evaluations don’t discriminate between a large freshman class a five-student senior seminar,” Kinsinger said. “‘Was the professor available to you?’ Well, in the five-student class, sure, the professor was available all the time. But in the larger class? The variance in answers is not the professor’s fault, but we have no way to tell currently.”
Professors might be able to even add their own questions pertaining to certain assignments or objectives related to the class, Gray said. As of right now, Swart distributes a personal evaluation in a few of his courses to get this kind of specialized feedback.
Not all courses are evaluated every semester. This semester, only 372 out of 904 courses are being evaluated. The evaluations affect 111 professors and 1,503 students.