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Course Evaluations Best Practices

Does your institution have best practices for the end of the year course evaluations? If so, do you mind sharing?

Kari 

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Hey kari@unr.edu,

best practice: "procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective."

I have to remind myself what that term really means because we use it so much at work it risks losing it's meaning for me. With that in mind, here's what we do (and you can judge for yourself if they are best practices Smiley Happy )

1) Anonymous

2) Easy for Students

3) Easy for Faculty

4) Standardized

5) Optional

6) Timely

7) Easy for Admins

1. Anonymous

There are multiple aspects to anonymity. First, the technology we use (Alliance Partner - EvaluationKit) purposefully does not ask for or display names of student. Second, we do not release results to faculty until after final grades are due. Anonymity protects both the student and the instructor from claims of impartiality. Anonymity is also believed to increase response rates.

2. Easy for Students

We chose our course evaluations provider in part based on simplicity for the students. We want it to integrate perfectly with Canvas and provide external means of completing the evaluations such as mobile apps for Android and iOS. We also want the UI to be accessible, modern, and intuitive. We want it to be quick but thorough. This is hard. We have to understand students could have to complete 5 or more of these in any given period. We've settled on a standardized set of questions (see Standardized) that we estimate should take approximately 10 minutes to answer. We also want it to be very easy for students to realize there is an evaluation for them to complete. We err on the side of being annoying here. They get a pop-up each time they visit the course home page if they haven't completed or opted out of a course evaluation (along with a series of emails, all configured within EvaluationKit).

3. Easy for Faculty

We don't want faculty to have to visit a special website, maintain separate credentials, or really, think at all about course evaluations. What's easy for them is that it all just happens, and they have the results when they need them, where they already are. Aside from reminders about when results are available (see Anonymity), how to find out if a student completed a course evaluation (they can't, student has to provide certificate email), and a weird quirk if they are also a student, we're pretty much at this point.

4. Standardized

If there's a debatable one on the list (when it comes to "best practices") it's this one. We choose to use a standardized set of questions. There are various pros and cons to this and they can vary based on technology. I'll let you hash them out at your institution Smiley Happy

5. Optional

Close second on debatable best practice is this one, but we don't require students to complete a course evaluation.

6. Timely

This is related to being "easy" and ironically it's not very easy at all. If you're in the midst of finals, finding 10 minutes (or an hour) to complete course evaluations  (or answer student emails about them) is a lot less easy than the week before. On the other hand, you can't give the course evaluation during the second week of class, and you need to leave them open for a reasonable amount of time...What to do? It's really for you to decide. In a 16 week course, we settled on a 3 week evaluation period ending a week before finals week.

7. Easy for Admins

I almost forgot about this one. Silly admins not thinking about themselves! If you can't easily set it up, manage it, and get good results out of it to your stakeholders, all the rest of it was for nothing! I don't have much to compare it to, but as a Canvas admin (so I have a high bar for software companies) who found himself responsible for course evaluations (wait, what?), I've found EvaluationKit‌ to be easy to use, very responsive in support requests (some lifesavers), and providing all the results the stakeholders desire.

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And I would, of course, be remiss if I didn't point you to some of the other great conversations and resources in the community regarding course evaluations:

Course Evaluation Partners

Course evaluations 

Enhancing the Student Experience: Moving Course Evaluations Online  (blog post from a vendor, still great stuff)

https://community.canvaslms.com/message/33405 

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Also, because your question may not necessarily have one "correct" answer, I have changed your posting from a "Question" to a "Discussion."  I hope this is okay with you.

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