Sensible changes to Course Evaluations

Just got an email from Marty Krauss to the whole school. There will be changes to the online course evaluation system.

tl;dr version: Evaluations can be filled out later, and if you don’t fill them out you get your grades back a bit later too.

The email:

Dear Students:

I wanted to let you know about some changes that we are making to the online course evaluation system starting this semester, Spring 2010.  These changes reflect feedback that I have received from faculty and students via the Committee for the Support of Teaching, and, most recently, from discussions with my student advisory group.

1.  Changes to the Timing and Length of the Course Evaluation Period

Up to now our practice has been to open course evaluations three weeks prior to the first day of exams and to close them at 9:00am on the morning of the first day of exams.  From recent discussions I recognize that many of you dislike the current timing on the basis that:

a.    you feel you are being asked to evaluate courses too early and at a time when you are busy and your focus is elsewhere (on exams);

b.    you consider the exam to be a core component of the overall course experience, and believe that you should have the opportunity to comment on the exam as well as on your classroom experience; and

c.    you believe that the quality of your feedback will improve if the course evaluation system remains available to you after exams are completed because you will have time to produce a more considered assessment.

In light of the above, course evaluations will begin two weeks before the examination period (a little later into the cycle of a course) and will close five days after the examination period.  The changes will be implemented this semester.  This semester’s period will run from April 23-May 21, 2010.

2.  Suppressing Early Access to Grades

Part of our motivation for reviewing the online evaluation system was concern about response rates.  While these have generally been respectable, they haven’t been as robust as we would like.  In order to address this, I have decided to implement a system of grade suppression, alternatively termed early grade release.  From this semester, a student who has completed all of his/her evaluations will be able to see his/her grades online as soon as grades are posted.  For those students who have not completed all of their evaluations, grades will remain suppressed until five days after the close of the examination period.  We will continue to run the raffle for students who complete all of their course evaluations: those students will be entered automatically into a draw where they become eligible to win a prize.

The information derived from course evaluations is used by all segments of the Brandeis community for a variety of important processes; this is one of the reasons we consider course evaluations to be an important part of a Brandeis student’s responsibility for completing a course.  Our hope is that the above changes will satisfy many of you who have taken the time to provide feedback, and that they will lead to an improvement in response rates and to better quality feedback for the faculty as they seek to improve their teaching.

I appreciate your ongoing support of the course evaluation system.


Marty Wyngaarden Krauss

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs