After much anticipation course evaluations are now 100% digital at William & Mary. Beginning this semester, Spring 2013, all courses will be using the new evaluation system. The new online system (Blue Evaluations by eXplorance) replaces our in-house system of Scantron forms that has been in place since 1999 as well as previously used online evaluation systems.
For faculty members this means the ability to customize surveys along with more robust reporting methods. Customizable question fields will allow you to tailor the survey to receive feedback on specific aspects of courses. Windows of time when the survey is available to students are also customizable, and set by each school. Advanced reporting features allow for rapid feedback and the ability to gather a wide range of data. There is also support for cross-listed and team-taught courses. See the FAQs for Faculty for more information.
For those administering the survey process we anticipate that there will be a sizeable reduction in time needed to coordinate the distribution of surveys and to compile survey responses. This will also change the way evaluation records are retained; cutting the time and effort spent transporting, copying and storing hard-copy files.
For students the new evaluation system allows for much more flexibility. Surveys can be taken on the device of choice (computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.) with multiple access points to the surveys – through email reminders, myWM, Blackboard, W&M IT website, etc. You can also choose when to take the survey during the allotted evaluation window and how long to spend on providing feedback. Evaluations are completely anonymous and confidential. See the FAQs for Students for more information.
Results from the First Release
A first release of the online system took place Fall semester of 2012. Several hundred courses took part, including courses from the Department of Economics, courses in history and biology, and selected courses in the School of Law, Mason School of Business, and the School of Education.
A survey was sent to those students who participated in the first release. We received feedback from 891 students who completed an online evaluation. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the new system. For example, when asked how the online evaluation compared to other evaluation methods, 93% of respondents thought that the online version was either about the same or better.
Comments from the survey support the data.
“It was better than the written version in basically every way.”
“I can't think of any improvements - I really liked this system. Very convenient, and I could go back to it and add more comments as I considered my experience in the class. I'd prefer to take all my course evaluations this way.”
“It is far easier and more conducive to providing feedback than the handwritten evaluations.”
“Have all classes use it! I wrote so much more on the online forms because I was able to take my time outside of class. Usually, professors give the evaluations out with one minute to go on the last day, and I am in such a hurry to leave that I don't bother with comments. I was able to provide much more feedback online.”
“It was nice to have the online evaluation system since it gave me more time to figure out my critique of my class… Having more personalized questions (catered to the class specifically) may help the instructor better improve the class…”
Suggested improvements and critiques for the online evaluations focused on the desire for a designated time within the class to take the survey, making the surveys mandatory and/or providing incentives to promote completion rates, a desire for additional comment fields for free responses (which can be accommodated for by customizing the surveys questions), and concerns about anonymity. Keep in mind that the evaluation is completely anonymous from the point of view of the instructor. You will receive reminders generated from the Blue/Evaluation system itself - not from your instructor.
If you haven’t yet used the online evaluations, you soon will. All courses will use the new system beginning this semester (Spring 2013). The old course evaluation administrative module will continue to be accessible for the prior years' results for a limited time.