Some profs remain hesitant on online evals



After the implementation of an online course evaluation system last semester, Yale professors are now beginning to receive feedback on their courses.

Charles Bailyn, chairman of the Teaching and Learning Committee, said department chairs received hard copies of the evaluations Jan. 27. Yale College students answered 86 percent of the course evaluations, he said. While most departments and professors switched completely to the new online system last semester, however, some continued to use the traditional paper evaluations.

Bailyn said the system of printing out all of the evaluations for the professors was “ridiculous” and that the committee was working on a way for faculty to access their evaluations online.

“It doesn’t make any sense to do that and we will not do that in the future,” Bailyn said.

Bailyn, who is chairman of the Astronomy Department, said he had read all the evaluations for his department.

“There’s a lot of information in these and it may take a bit of time to digest,” Bailyn said.

Chemistry professor Iona Black — who said she had not yet received the printouts of her evaluations — gave her students a paper evaluation last semester because she wanted instant feedback and answers to specific questions regarding her teaching assistants and help sessions. But she said she did not receive many paper evaluations because her students had anticipated evaluating her course online.

“I think the idea that they have to access it to get their grades is a good thing because then they have to answer it,” Black said.

But Black said she wished professors received the evaluations faster and had more involvement in forming the questions.

Bailyn said in the future, he hopes to add an option where faculty members can submit a question for the online evaluations. But this semester, the six questions will remain in their current form, he said.

African American studies and French professor Christopher L. Miller said in an e-mail that the evaluations he received last week resembled the old paper versions.

“My complaint about the new system never had anything to do with the shift to computers,” Miller said. “It relates to the automatic sharing of evaluations with the unspecified bureaucrats and committees. I suspect it will be some time before we know how the system works because no new information has been forthcoming from either the Teaching and Learning Committee or the Dean’s Office.”

Brian Bergstrom ’03, a computer science major, said his department used the paper evaluations they had always used.

“It’s kind of ironic that the computer science department decided to keep using [paper evaluations],” Bergstrom said.

Travis Penn ’04 said he completed some evaluations quickly and declined to do others.

“When I went through it I just wanted to see my grades,” Penn said. “I only went through one seriously because I cared about the course and I wanted to evaluate it. But the others I just blew off.”

The online system did not have a mechanism allowing teaching assistants to read their evaluations this term because of technical problems, Bailyn said.

“What we hope will happen is for any course with TAs, there will be a drop-down menu for TAs,” Bailyn said.

Bailyn said the committee is currently working on some technological aspects of the system so students can view the evaluations when shopping for courses next fall.

Bergstrom said he is pleased the evaluations will be available for other students to see next year.

“It’s not that big a deal to take 15 minutes to fill them out,” Bergstrom said. “I was pretty brief and to the point but I did fill them out.”

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