Course Surveys Go Digital

    Say ‘goodbye’ to that 15-minute reprieve from lecture at the end of every quarter: As of this winter, students won’t be assessing their professors during classtime anymore.

    Instead, Course and Professor Evaluations — a student organization that administers course evaluations — will move the entire evaluations process online.

    C.A.P.E. was founded 38 years ago, when a large part of its service was publishing results in an annual hardcopy book. Now, the organization will offer online evaluations during the ninth and 10th week of classes, and post the results after final grades are due.

    C.A.P.E. director Alan Lam said the transition is caused by budget cuts: The service does not have the money to pay 50 student runners to distribute the evaluations to classrooms.

    Associate Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Barbara Sawrey, who regulates the program, said that moving the evaluations online may save up to $50,000 in annual salary and paper costs.

    According to Lam, moving the service online will help simplify the evaluation process and save 250,000 pieces of paper.

    “With the online C.A.P.E.s, we will have a less error-prone rate of distributing and collecting the results,” Lam said.

    All classes will continue to receive C.A.P.E. evaluations. Each student will receive an e-mail from C.A.P.E. with a link to a personalized “class list” Web site, where they will find evaluation forms for each class. Students can revise their evaluations until midnight before the first day of finals.

    The questions on the form will remain identical to ones administered in previous years, and will continue to be anonymous.

    C.A.P.E. launched an online pilot to test the program during Summer Session 2009. Initial results were positive: 98 percent of classes contributed responses, compared to 75 percent in the 2008 Summer Session, which used the paper evaluations.

    However, since Summer Session class sizes are much smaller than those in fall, winter and spring, Lam said he expects the online program to be slow at first.

    “Initially, the response rate is going to be low,” Lam said. “Our main goal right now is to boost student awareness.”

    Warren sophomore Katie Chen, who said she uses C.A.P.E. results to help choose her class schedule, expressed doubts about whether students would use the program in its online form.

    “I’ll still take the time to fill it out, but I have a feeling that a lot of other students won’t,” Chen said.

    C.A.P.E. directors are planning to team up with the A.S. Council to promote “C.A.P.E. Week” later in the quarter. Together, they will send e-mail reminders to students about the change, and set up an information table on campus about the new setup.

    According to Lam, C.A.P.E. has revamped its Web site. In addition, the organization plans on sending out e-mail reminders to students who haven’t completed all their evaluations.

    Students who do complete the online forms will be entered into a raffle for Triton Cash cards.

    C.A.P.E. Assistant Director Ben Lewin said he is not worried about lower student turnout biasing the evaluations. In contrast, he said the online system should result in a wider variety of students participating in the program.

    “Students who choose not to go to class regularly may fill out the evaluations, and have more representation in the results,” Lewin said.

    Sawrey said the new system will benefit professors as well.

    “Staff will benefit with a full assurance that all students will have an opportunity to provide feedback,” Sawrey said. “Faculty will not lose any class time, since students will fill out the surveys outside of class.”

    Lam said the evaluations come in handy for professors as well, who ask for their forms as exit evaluations when they move on to new positions.

    He said he believes the new system will make for a fairer course-evaluation process.

    According to Sawrey, the idea to move C.A.P.E. online was proposed for the last several years by C.A.P.E. directors. She said the new system will allow students more time to complete evaluations, which in turn benefits staff.

    Sawrey said she that the new online system will open up the possibility of specialized C.A.P.E. evaluations for TAs, labs and seminars in the future.

    Readers can contact Kelly Pleskot at [email protected].

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