Home Section A - News Course Evaluations Give Students A Voice

Course Evaluations Give Students A Voice


News Editor

As the semester comes to a close, RC students have the ability to evaluate their classes through the online evaluation process. The evaluations provide feedback about courses, faculty performance, and are used by the Dean to give out teaching awards. RC started doing online evaluations in the fall of 2007. Before that, the evaluations were done on paper during particular classes. Currently, there are around 9,000 courses that students can evaluate, up from 8,785 last year. Since going online, the response rate from students has been around 70%, although RC hopes to increase that number.

“If only 5 students out of 10 respond, then that doesn’t represent the whole class.  So, response rate is important to us,” said Jack Steehler, the new Director of Institutional Research at RC. 

Every student who is on a roster for a class, including those who are auditing or taking a class pass/fail, has the opportunity to review the class. Some labs, independent studies, and classes with less than 5 people are usually excluded from the evaluation process unless the administration approves otherwise. Students who have been dropped from a course for an academic integrity violation are also prohibited from evaluating a particular course they were dropped from.

Students could start the evaluation process on November 27. The last day for students for students to review a course is December 13 at 8 A.M. The evaluations are located on the students MyRC homepage. Each question has a different category. Questions discuss various aspects of the class including: the instructor’s organizational skills, ability to stick to the syllabus, instructor’s ability to answer questions effectively, and general questions about the course. On each question, students are allowed to leave additional comments. Some of the questions also have numeric grading with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. Additionally, students have 40 minutes to complete the evaluation. Once it is sent, the answers cannot be changed. However, that only happens once the student hits submit. Otherwise, if time runs out the student must start over on the evaluation.  

 The responses given by students in the evaluations will be anonymous. Faculty members receive the evaluations after final grades are turned into the registrar’s office. Every faculty member, whether tenured or not, comes up for review every year. In the process, the department chair will receive a copy of the report with the numeric answers only. Only the faculty members see the comments from the evaluation. The recorded numeric answers are also provided to Dean Richard Smith. 

The evaluations are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to looking at a faculty member’s record, but it is still considered a crucial part of the process. Other parts of the faculty review include: rigorous reports, talking to majors about certain classes, a review of course materials, and looking at tests and assignments given to students. Salaries of faculty members are also set by the whole review process.

To encourage students to fill out the evaluations, some professors will provide incentives to do the evaluations. For example, faculty members can give out extra credit if a certain percentage of the evaluations are completed. This is not required, but it is allowed.

“It is a minority of faculty who do that. It is not expected by the administration that they do that, but it is an effective way to encourage students to do so,” Steehler said about faculty members giving extra credit for students doing evaluations.