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The Daily Tar Heel

Course evaluations completed online starting this semester

Beginning this semester, students can say goodbye to pesky course evaluation Scantrons.

As classes come to an end, most departments will be administering evaluations online, saving the University paper, working hours and cash. The move will also lead to faster response times, with professors receiving the results of the survey in early January rather than March.

Lynn Williford, the assistant provost for institutional research and assessment, said UNC has sought to move the evaluations online for several years.

“This has been a goal for many years — it goes back to probably about 2000,” she said. “It was kind of off-and-on for a while. We have spent some time pilot-testing online evaluations to find out what a downside might be.”

Williford said they couldn’t find many downsides. She said the University’s new contract with Digital Measures, a company that provides web-based services for many institutions across the country, will save UNC about 50,000 sheets of paper per semester.

But Giovana Espejo said it gets harder when her professors ask her to complete the evaluation outside of class.

“I got the e-mail probably three or four days ago,” said the sophomore international studies major. “It’s on the list of things to do, but it’s kind of a hectic time.”

Espejo said she’s unlikely to do an online evaluation on her own time unless she has strong feelings about the class.

“I’d be more likely to do it if I really like the class or hate it,” she said.

Zealan Hoover, a sophomore peace, war and defense and political science double major, said he’s done a course evaluation online for his POLI 150 class.

“It was easier, quicker to fill out because you can type faster than you can write,” he said.

Hoover said his professor had students bring in their laptops and gave them about 10 minutes of class time to complete them.

“Professors should treat online evaluations the same as paper evaluations and should dedicate class time to them,” he said.

Williford said the online system is also more efficient. In the past, she said, departments would have to stuff envelopes. She said they spent a great deal of time organizing papers.

Professors and departments will also be able to customize their evaluations, tailoring them to answer questions related specifically to their class.

“A great benefit is that students can more easily write comments in response to open-ended questions,” Williford said. “And they can give a much richer response in a lot more detail.”

Williford said Information Technology Services developed a homegrown system but that it took a lot of University resources and maintenance to keep it running.

She said it was much less expensive to outsource the job to Digital Measures, which will take care of the hardware, software, maintenance, data storage and security, although she did not disclose the cost of contracting the system.

“It took a lot of pressure off us,” she said.

Faculty Council President McKay Coble said professors will be able to see whether students have completed their online evaluations but won’t know which evaluation comes from which student.

She added that some departments may eventually encourage student participation by making students complete the course evaluation before receiving credit for the course.

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