BY KATHRYN WIEBE
A new course evaluation system developed and run by students will go online this week. Student participation will be vital to the success of this system, which has the potential to become an invaluable resource providing students with useful information not gathered by the current course evaluations.
The new system differs from the current system in several fundamental ways:
? The questions focus on student concerns, not professor or administrator concerns. The current system was designed to provide professors and administrators with feedback that is relevant to them; this system was designed to gather information that is important to students (e.g., How much work is assigned? Does the professor use cold-calling or panels?).
? The answer choices are descriptive phrases rather than numbers. The descriptive phrases are more meaningful than numbers and may allow for greater distinction between courses and professors (as compared with the current system in which nearly all courses and professors receive a score near “4”).
? Students may submit free-text comments, which will be provided in full in the evaluation summaries. Under the current system, students’ comments are not made available to other students.
? The system is completely paperless. Evaluations may be filled out online via the Student Government web site, and the evaluation summaries will be available online as well.
? The new evaluations may be filled out after students have taken the exam, thereby allowing students to comment on the nature of the exam.
This new system is intended to supplement, rather than replace, the current system. Students will continue to receive paper evaluations to fill out in class at the end of each semester. However, as mentioned above, the evaluations are quite different, so the new system will be complementary, not redundant.
The success of the new system depends on student participation, so we hope that students will take the time to evaluate all of their courses. The new evaluations ask relevant questions with intuitive answers, so filling them out should be a breeze. The potential payoff is great too: valuable information when deciding which classes to take in the future.
This is a great opportunity for students to provide honest feedback to their peers. As with the current system, responses will be anonymous and the results will not be published until after grades have been released.
A lot of thought went into this system, and the Student Government would be happy to answer questions about it. Please see the Student Government web site at www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/sgov/ for more information or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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