Student Evaluations Go Digital


(Mario Weddell/The Observer)
(Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Beginning next week, student evaluations of professors are switching from print to online. The new online Student Evaluation of Educational Quality questionnaire (SEEQ) gives students the accessibility to evaluate professors through electronic devices.

According to Allan Gilbert, chair of the Faculty Evaluation Committee, Fordham’s shift from print to online surveys was inevitable. “We [the Arts and Science schools of Fordham] have been conducting the paper evaluations for ten years; not only are we behind, but the surveys in the form of paper are obsolete,” he said. “Additionally, the software making the paper survey is old; it would be very bad if that one machine [producing the evaluations] breaks.”

The obsolete nature of the system prompted the committee to find a company that will serve as the main site for these online surveys. “We found a vendor who does these kinds of surveys; their company provides surveys for many companies and other universities,” Gilbert said. “Students can fill out the surveys by logging into the site of the vendor.”

Based on previous testing, the online SEEQ may work fine amongst classes. “We conducted a pilot study last fall with about 19 classes at Fordham’s school of arts and science, as well as the graduate school; many students successfully filled the survey” Gilbert said. “Some courses, however, also saw a very low response rate.”

But despite the good results of the pilot, the committee has one concern: low survey participation from students. “If there is a low response from students, then the results will be unreliable,” Gilbert said. In order to avoid low student participation, the committee has been promoting the survey around Fordham. “Professors are supposed to announce and tell their students to fill [the surveys] out, and fliers around the school should help tell students to fill them out,” Gilbert said.

In addition, like the paper forms, professors will reserve time in class to ensure that the online evaluations are completed. “Instructors can choose a day for students to bring in laptops, tablets, iPhones, etc. into class. As with the paper forms, the professor will walk out the room, and give his or her students 15 minutes to fill out the evaluation,” Gilbert said.

The online SEEQ will contain the same content as the original paper SEEQ. “The new online evaluations mimics the paper form; there will be all the same questions as in the previous evaluations,” Gilbert said.

Although the print and online SEEQ share some similarities, the accessibility of the surveys’ results greatly differs. “After the surveys are submitted and processed, the reports will be accessible to not only professors, but also students; they will be accessible after exam week,” Gilbert said.

“Students will be able to see evaluations from almost every course at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) and Fordham’s graduate schools,” Gilbert said. The reports will include ratings on professors’ availability, clarity, grade difficulty and more.

Gilbert said that the SEEQ will work to the benefit of students at Fordham. “The evaluations will not be like Rate-My-Professor; the results are recent and cumulative. They [the surveys’ results] will be there to help students when choosing classes,” Gilbert said. Likewise, the SEEQ results also work to the advantage of professors. “We [professors] want to learn how we are teaching, and the possible areas we can improve on,” he added.

Many students see the benefit of the switch from the print to online evaluations. According to Christina La Bruno, FCLC ’16, the online forms would make it easier for students. “I would rather be at home filling out the survey. And plus, it is convenient for us now that it is online; [students] get to take our time, and don’t have to feel rushed to finish the survey,” she said.

Lauren Berring, FCLC ’16, and Amina Bhatti, FCLC ’16, agree that the online evaluations make it easier for students to complete the survey. “I prefer the online method more because it’s definitely more faster and efficient,” Berring said. “I had no problem with the print method, but I think the online survey will be much easier for students to fill out,” Bhatti said.

The SEEQ will be available to students until the beginning of exam week. “The surveys are open 24/7 during the last two week of classes. They [the surveys] will close sometime before exam week. And on the actual week of exams, students will no longer have access to the surveys,” Gilbert said.