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Course evaluations used to gauge progress should be mandatory


December 5, 2014

As many of you already know, course evaluations at UW-River Falls have moved online and we here at the Student Voice find this new idea problematic.

This university is known to value education more than research. Teaching is one of the most important functions at UWRF and online course evaluations will only negatively impact any chance at bettering professors through peer evaluation.

Evaluations are an important part of the teaching process. Professors need to know what they are doing right and, of course, what they are doing wrong. Some students have taken this opportunity to simply give perfect scores to professors or merely bash them or challenge their intelligence. Students, please be honest in the evaluations. Evaluations are an easy way to voice our opinion as a student body.

That being said, moving evaluations online only diminishes the effectiveness of the surveys. In-class surveys only take 10-20 minutes and usually, cross your fingers, most students take that time to give their two cents on a professor’s abilities as a teacher. While moving evaluations online does allow each student more time for elaboration it will significantly decrease the number of evaluations submitted.

A quick, seemingly thoughtless comment on an evaluation is better than nothing at all. Silence gets this university nowhere. The students who were going to spend 20 minutes on an in-class evaluation are certainly going to go online and do the same, but the majority are not going to bother.

Course evaluations should be taken with a grain of salt. While they do provide a voice for UWRF students, it’s hard to know whether our voices are actually heard. It’s important to know whether or not a professor “displayed thorough knowledge about the material being taught” and if the professor “treated me fairly and with respect,” but its more important to know what kind of teacher these professors truly are.

What kind of material do they focus on? How do they test a students’ knowledge, is it through projects, papers, quizzes or tests? Does the teacher rely heavily on the text or do they provide supplementary knowledge? Does the professor strictly use Adobe PowerPoint and nothing more? These are some of the questions that need to be asked, not if the professor was available for consultation.

Saving paper is certainly not a bad thing, but perhaps its time to modernize these evaluations with important questions and make them mandatory. That’s right: mandatory.
The email each student received said to “please be as honest and fair in your evaluation as possible. This information can be used in personnel decisions such as retention, promotion, tenure, and merit pay.” So take the evaluations seriously, because the university certainly does. And remember, you all have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12, to complete the evaluations.