To the Editor:

Some of the discussion of the new online course evaluations has created confusion about how the system will work. The “opt out” option advocated by Evan LePatner ’03 (“Evaluations and grades: a misguided quid pro quo,” 11/12) is already part of the system. Students who opt out will in fact be able to view their grades online, but will not be able to go back and complete the forms after opting out.

Also, students need not (and probably should not) wait for their grades to be available to fill out the forms. The system will be available at the start of reading period, and we hope that most students will complete the evaluations in a timely way before their online grades even become an issue.

I note also that, contrary to LePatner’s assertion, the pilot studies actually did link the availability of online grades to the forms. The success of this experiment in creating a high response rate coupled to high quality comments is what prompted us to extend the system to all courses.

Our experience with the pilot program suggests that faculty are more likely to take student evaluations seriously when there are enough of them to form a good sample — otherwise the comments can be easily dismissed as unrepresentative of mainstream opinion. And the same applies now to the CYCE survey on science for non-scientists, which was made necessary by the current lack of a reasonable course evaluation system.

Charles Bailyn ’81

November 13, 2002

The writer is a professor of astronomy and chairman of the Yale College Teaching and Learning Committee.