Faculty Evaluation
Cal Poly is trying out the use of online professor evaluations, which could replace print versions as soon as Fall 2015. Associate Vice Provost Albert Liddicoat will determine their value. | Jason Hung/Mustang News

Karen Garcia
Special to Mustang News

Professor evaluations are transitioning to an online program if two trials are passed, one during spring quarter and the next in the fall.

The entire university might be taking online evaluations if both trials check out.

“Currently, most of the CSUs are assessing it; it’s just a matter of time until probably everyone is online, especially with the new generation of students that work effectively with technology,” said Associate Vice Provost Albert Liddicoat.

If trials are successful, he said that by Fall 2015, the university might be in the position to launch the online evaluations.

These online evaluations will be administered online after a few trials of the program are given to a select number of professors and their classes.

The first trial of classes that will go through the online evaluations were administered last week.

Liddicoat said that by assessing the response rate and the scores from the evaluations, there is the possibility that spring quarter online evaluations will be administered to an entire college.

Liddicoat and other administrators will be closely watching this process, as professor evaluations are important to not only the professors but also the students helping the department to better assess their professors.

He said these evaluations are meant to help a professor grow in any areas that need improvement.

Liddicoat said many professors who are starting to teach at Cal Poly usually need the evaluations because they lack experience teaching to a room full of students.

“A lot of people come out of PhD programs where they do a lot of research but might not have a lot of experience in teaching,” he said.

The first few terms for a new professor can be a little shaky, but with the help of the department and the student’s evaluations, professors will fix the kinks in their teaching style.

Liddicoat said there are a few options to help a professor improve on teaching their course.

“We provide a mentorship from the department chair and there’s also the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology,” he said. “At the center they’ll do assessments and come to class to watch the professor present.”

The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) provides this service to the professor if he or she would like assistance.

The CTLT will review the student evaluations, observe the professor in class and interpret what changes could be made to better the curriculum the professor is using to teach their students.

Sophomore sociology major Tina Owyang said she takes professors evaluations seriously because she hopes to help the department assess how professors can better their class curriculum.

“I think they give a good reflection on how the student views the teacher and in turn it can help the teacher to better their course for future quarters,” she said.

Owyang also said that the evaluations give the students an opportunity to voice their opinions.

“I feel that it’s beneficial for not only us, the students, but also for the staff,” she said.

One of the first California State Universities to do their professor evaluations online was San Diego State University.

“They actually studied it and looked at both response rates and value,” Liddicoat said. “They found that there wasn’t a big significant difference in online versus paper when the evaluations were done well.”

As Cal Poly moves in the online evaluations direction, Liddicoat said that the first step is to make the online evaluation questions as similar to those on paper as the first trial.

The next factor to take into consideration is whether students will respond to online evaluations as they did with in-class paper evaluations.

“That’s kind of the fear and unknown, if you implement a new program and response rates go down,” Liddicoat said.

Other campuses have come up with different ways to remind students to take their evaluations and Liddicoat said there are four ideas that have been tossed around.

  • An email notification will go out to the students to remind them to take the online evaluation
  • An iPhone or Android app can be created to send students push notifications
  • A notification can be administered through PolyLearn
  • Students won’t be allowed to go through PolyLearn or the Student Center to see their grades until they take the evaluations

Associate Professor of Political Science Matthew Moore believes that the switch from pencil to keyboards was an obvious choice.

“Doing these evaluations online seems perfectly obvious,” Moore said. “It saves a huge amount of paper, a huge amount of time and makes the data much easier to manage.”

The move to online evaluations is a great idea to Moore but he hopes the responses won’t be similar to those of PolyRatings.

“It’s either people that love the professor or hate the professor and not a whole lot of people in the middle because why bother,” he said, “It’s only going to be a handful of people and its only going to be the motivated.”

Another aspect Moore is concerned about is whether or not the evaluation program will be user friendly for other types of devices in addition to computers.

“That way if the evaluations were happening online I can still set aside time in class and say okay everyone bust out your phone, laptop, tablet whatever, I’m going to go in the hall and please do the evaluations,” Moore said.

The last thought that Moore had was how these evaluations would best match alternatives classes such as online courses or hybrid courses.

Moore teaches a one unit political science course, (POLS 111) for students who took Advanced Placement Government and Unites State History and trying to fulfill a GE D1 requirement.

His course meets in person a few times but most of the student work is done online.

“The form that we use to evaluate in the political science department is irrelevant to this class,” he said.

Moore said that the questions on the evaluation were meant for a physical classroom and the end result is “crazy answers.”

Moore hopes that the online evaluations will be a little more flexible to different types of classes so that answers received from students can actually be used for bettering the classroom and learning experience.

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