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Marshall University course evaluations go paperless

On December 6, 2012

The closing of the 2012 fall semester marks the first time Marshall University has dispersed online course evaluations during a regular academic school year period.
Provost Gayle Ormiston said efficiency, less time restriction and cost cutting due to using less paper for written evaluations are a few factors, which lead administrators to switch to online evaluations.

Online course evaluations makes it more accessible to students for a longer period of time, Ormiston said. Generally, students fill out evaluations in a particular amount of time within the class, this way students have a little bit longer time to fill them out.

Typically, at the end of each semester Marshall professors have distributed an in-class, multiple choice bubble sheet evaluation to gauge the professors performance, course organization, rapport with students and fair grading.
Identical to the written version, the online evaluation features 22 standard questions as well as a section for free-form text comments.
Additionally, students are able to save progress on an evaluation and return to it later if desired, as long as evaluations are completed by 11 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17.

To encourage participation in the online evaluations, students will receive an email notifying them of the availability of the system until its close or until the student has completed all available evaluations.
Student evaluations are very important because we need to know what the students think of how our faculty is doing as we work with faculty to try to make this the best place it can be, Don Van Horn, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said. Student evaluations are just one piece of a much larger picture that you have to look at when assess teaching effectiveness, but they can be very helpful and informative.

A study from Columbia College Chicago said benefits of online evaluations include: evaluation scores not changing when evaluations are completed online rather than on paper; students leave more, and often more useful comments on online evaluations compared to paper evaluations; and students, faculty and staff generally view online evaluations more positively than paper evaluations. An added benefit to faculty is the availability to receive evaluation results within two weeks after the end of the semester.

Ormiston said the online evaluations are not a completely new concept to Marshall.

We have been using online course evaluations for some time in the summer, Ormiston said.
Certain programs like the College of Health Professions and the College of Business have also been using online evaluation with positive results.
Course evaluations are also used in faculty personnel actions as part of a review process to decide tenure and promotion.

We try to educate students on the role these evaluations are playing and that they need to take them serious and that they are very important for the purpose of the university for a variety of reasons, Ormiston said.
While online evaluations may offer several benefits, one consistent disadvantage and a major concern to administrators is the low response and participation rate.

Corley Dennison, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of undergraduate studies said he thinks participation in the evaluations will increase over time.

Usually participation goes down a little, but its still statistically accurate and I think in the long run once students get use to this is the way they evaluate their professors, I think we will see pretty solid participation, Dennison said.
Van Horn said it is important to take into consideration several semesters worth of evaluations, versus isolating evaluations from one specific semester.
You have to look at the long term when it comes to student evaluation data, Van Horn said. Look at the data over multiple semesters and for evidences of trends that help you better understand how a faculty member communicates content to students and manages a classroom.
Van Horn said because the results of online evaluating are for the most part unknown, the impact cant really be known for some time. To distinguish effectiveness and to detect changes, he said he plans to compare results from previous written evaluations with this falls online evaluations.
I think people would be surprised at the consistency of student evaluations results for individual faculty over time, Van Horn said. What Im hoping is that I will get comparable kinds of reports compared to what I had this fall.

Students are currently able to access online course evaluations by logging into myMU under the student tab, or by logging into MUOnline under the student support and resources module.
Katie Wise can be reached at

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