Preparing Students for Course Evaluations and Increasing Response Rates

We recommend that Departments and Instructors take the following steps each semester to prepare themselves and students for the course evaluation process.

Suggestion 1:

Inform students of the date the course evaluations system will open and ensure that they look for and receive the email invitations within their UIC email accounts. The invitation will not be sent to an external email account. Put this date and the course evaluation close date on the syllabus.

Research suggests that frequent reminders and communication with students about your own value for course evaluations and how you will use them is vital to ensuring adequate response rates (Ballantyne, 2003; Gaillard et al., 2006; Norris & Conn, 2005). One suggestion is to provide examples of how you have used student feedback in the past to improve your teaching, course content or format. In this way, students will feel that their opinions matter and that the evaluations will lead to tangible outcomes. It is also important that you let students know how your department will use the feedback, where applicable (e.g., seen by department Head/Chair and/or are used for purposes of promotion and/or tenure). Another possibility cited in the research is to make the evaluations an assignment with no point value attached.

References

  • Ballantyne, C.S. (2003). Online evaluations of teaching: An examination of current practice and considerations for the future. In D. L. Sorenson & T. D. Johnson (Eds.), New Directions for Teaching and Learning: Online students ratings of instruction (pp. 103-112). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Gaillard, F., Mitchell, S, & Kavota, V. (2006). Students, Faculty, and Administrators’ Perception Of Students’ Evaluations Of Faculty In Higher Education Business Schools. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 3(8): 77-90.
  • Norris, J., & Conn, C. (2005). Investigating Strategies for Increasing Student Response Rates to Online- Delivered Course Evaluations. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6: 13-29.

Suggestion 2:

Response rates will increase if students are given time to complete the evaluations during class. Inform students when you plan to administer your course evaluations in class. Remind them to bring a handheld device to class, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone with internet access. The day you plan to administer the course evaluations, remind students to open their email messages entitled “UIC Student Evaluation of Teaching [Course Name] [Instructor Name] [Semester, Year]” during class and complete the course evaluations at that time. This can be done during the time in which the paper-based evaluations were typically administered, giving students sufficient time in class to complete the online evaluations on their personal electronic devices.

Students’ individual electronic evaluations are not viewable or touched by instructors, so instructors may remain present in the classroom while students complete the evaluations. Alternatively, an instructor may wish to schedule a specific time for students to access one of the computer labs on campus. If an instructor foresees any difficulty related to student access to a computer or an electronic device, please have the instructor contact the Office for Faculty Affairs immediately.

Suggestion 3:

Please remind students to look at the top of the questionnaire where the course and teacher names are located before completing the questionnaire to ensure they are filling out the correct questionnaire for the correct instructor and course.

Suggestion 4:

Please remind students that, if there are no Teaching Assistants (TA) or Co- Instructors for a course, or if you plan a separate course evaluation for those individuals (this must be done under a separate CRN), any questions on their forms that allude to evaluating TA’s do not need to be filled out.

Suggestion 5:

One week before the system closes, our server will generate messages for any courses in which, there is currently a response rate of 40% or lower. If you receive a message from our server indicating a low response rate for your course, please take the time to speak to your students and encourage them to complete the evaluation. Inquire if they are having any difficulties accessing the system or have permanently deleted their email invitation, etc. Please direct any concerns to the Office for Faculty Affairs.

Suggestion 6:

Communicate to your students the importance of the course evaluations. Share with them how you specifically use the feedback you receive from the course evaluations and how your department and the University as a whole use the information.