Discriminating Yale students have a new course-shopping tool at their fingertips.
Students can now view evaluations of last fall’s courses when they log into Yale’s online course registration Web site. The evaluations, including the text of students’ own written recommendations and graphs that summarize workload and overall class assessment, are only available for classes that were taught last year and have the same professor.
Although much of the work necessary to launch the viewable evaluations was done last year, the Registrar’s Office delayed the launch of evaluations because a new history section registration was implemented at the start of this fall’s shopping period, said Registrar Barry S. Kane.
“We staggered it because we did not want to launch two major applications at the same time,” Kane said.
Charles Bailyn, the former chairman of the Teaching and Learning Committee and Astronomy Department chairman, said he was disappointed the program was not launched at the beginning of shopping period but added that it was complicated to integrate the system into the online course selection web site.
Emma Pollack-Pelzner ’04, a Calhoun College freshman counselor, said she looked for the evaluations earlier this semester because Kane had previewed the program to the freshman counselors two weeks ago. She said she was confused when they were not available yet.
“It seemed slightly useless not to have it up yet,” Pollack-Pelzner said.
Pollack-Pelzner said she thought the evaluations would be helpful to freshmen, who might not know about professors’ reputations, but she said she thought freshmen would probably not put the evaluations to full use until next semester.
“I think this semester they are a little bit shy about shopping and can’t really handle any more information,” Pollack-Pelzner said.
Sarah Scalia ’06 said viewing evaluations will be a helpful tool for shopping, but she said the launch of the program should have been better advertised.
Scalia said she would fill out evaluations more carefully now that other students would eventually be able to view them.
Bailyn said faculty members cannot view the evaluations through the course information page like students, and many are not aware that students will now see parts of their evaluations.
“It’s not as high in their consciousness as it is for the students,” Bailyn said. “I think the students will catch on to how the system works a lot faster than the faculty.”
The Web site includes a professor response section so students can view comments professors made about student evaluations, but most evaluations on the site do not have professor responses. The responses to the other three questions from the online evaluations from the end of the semester are not available for students to view.
Religious Studies chairman Dale Martin said he thought professors would not mind having some evaluations available to students if it made the students more likely to complete evaluations in the future.
Martin said he thought about using the professor response option when he got two negative comments from students who wanted him to teach his course on the New Testament from a faith-based point of view. But he said he decided not to respond because other student responses contradicted the negative comments.
“I don’t want to come across that defensive,” Martin said. “I do think that if these evaluations are going to be public, professors need to have the chance to respond. Although I would encourage most professors not to.”