At the end of every semester, professors and GSIs across campus say at least a few words reminding students to fill out course evaluations. But when the CTools course evaluations service failed, many students lost the chance to follow their teachers’ suggestions. To prevent the loss of this valuable data in the future, the University should make online evaluations more reliable. The University must assure students and teachers that it values the feedback process.
This semester was the second time that evaluations were offered on Ctools instead of on paper. The switch was to save paper and class time, but ultimately failed to help students. On Apr. 20 at about 9 p.m., CTools unexpectedly shut down. The University was soon able to bring CTools back online, but the evaluations couldn’t be restored. The University had only received a fraction of the expected number of evaluations when CTools failed. Some colleges created supplemental surveys to get feedback, but the University itself has not offered a new evaluation.
The most pressing concern from this failure is the loss of the data that comes from teaching questionnaires. Course evaluations give students a forum to discuss concerns about courses and professors and lets professors and GSIs use this feedback to improve teaching methods and class requirements. And students use the online compilation of this information to choose classes based on previous responses.
A natural response to the loss of this useful data would seem to be the creation of new evaluations. But the University won’t do this, arguing that responses may be skewed since grades have been posted. The University isn’t giving students enough credit. It could still collect the data and compare it with previous semesters to see if the results are skewed instead of completely ignoring student concerns.
The failure of online course evaluations has had a significant effect on course feedback, and the University must prevent similar failures in the future. One suggestion would be to move course evaluations a few weeks earlier in the semester. But in the mean time, the University should have offered supplemental evaluations to ensure that student voices are heard. Without student feedback, the University cannot rightly call itself a growing learning community.