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Student Surveys Move to Digital Age
Somewhere in between the beginning of December and taking her final exam and leaving for home, Tamara Rasamny ’16 will complete one more task.
“I do feel it’s important to do,” says Rasamny, an international relations major in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “A lot of faculty members depend on it.”
The task at hand is filling out student course evaluations, which, like everything else, are now moving into the digital age. Forms that were once filled out by hand are now offered online. Ease and the environment are two of the reasons why. Starting this week, students are able to log in and complete the form. The system remains open through Sunday, Dec. 15.
“We are doing approximately 87,000 evaluations per semester,” says Seth Ovadia, assistant director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. “That’s a lot of paper, and doesn’t even include the forms that were printed but not used and were wasted.”
But it goes beyond saving reams of paper, and the need for a number two pencil. The information is also cleaner, according to Ovadia, who says the old forms required the user to fill in a bubble. If they went outside the lines, it could render the answer useless.
Then there is the ease of use.
“Completing the student ratings online is easy for students,” says Ovadia. “They can do it whenever it is convenient for them. It is also more efficient. Forms do not need to be scanned, as students enter the data directly into the database. That also means it is more secure. With paper, the form was handed out in class, then put into an envelope, taken back to department, and finally delivered to us, so it went through a lot of different hands. Electronic forms do not go through that process.”
That greater feeling of anonymity is a relief to Rasamny, who cites that one reason alone for her willingness to go online and let her feelings be known about her coursework.
As for the process itself, it’s easy. Students receive an email when the system opens that includes their password and a clickable link.
“Once they click on the link, they log in and then come to a screen of their courses where online ratings are available,” says Ovadia. “The forms are short, just one page, and students can get them all done in one sitting. It is not a lengthy process.”
Currently, nearly 85 percent of course evaluations handled by OIRA are administered electronically.
Ramasny says it’s worth her time, and she is encouraging others to take a few moments too. “It helps faculty members tweak their classes for the better,” she says.