Professional Learning: Course Evaluations

What are course evaluations?

Course Evaluations are online, confidential questionnaires, which ask students a series of questions about their teaching and learning experiences specific to each course and instructor.

Course evaluations are a formalized opportunity for students to share constructive feedback with you about their learning experiences in each of your courses.

Why do we need course evaluations at SLC?

Teaching requires lifelong learning:

Teaching involves continuous and ongoing professional development in order to say relevant in what we teach (our curriculum content), how we teach (our pedagogy), and who we teach (our students). In order to maintain and extend teaching competencies, instructors are encouraged to continually revisit and expand upon the attitudes, knowledge, and skills they bring to student instruction, assessment, and evaluation.

What sources of information can provide insight as to our next steps in learning?

As an instructor, you are encouraged to collect informal and formal feedback from students at multiple points in time throughout a course:

  • Informally, you can use applications to poll your students at the start, midway through, and at the end of a lesson, learning experience, module of instruction, and/or course. Options for gathering informal feedback from students include teacher-generated surveys (e.g., using Microsoft Forms within Teams), one-minute paper entrance or exit cards, facilitation of a student-led discussion, etc.

  • Formally, and once per course, you can encourage your students to participate in centralized Course Evaluations, where students are asked to share their individual perspectives on their teaching and learning experiences, specific to each course/instructor.

How can results from course evaluations be used developmentally?

Instructors and their program leadership can use the results from course evaluation to better understand what is/not working well in specific courses and programs and how learning experiences can be continually improved for students.

Implementation

When do course evaluations happen?

Students are invited via email to complete a course evaluation once 75% of the course learning experiences have been completed. The administration period will differ for each course, depending on the length of course and when it is scheduled within a semester. Students will be given a window of time to complete their course evaluation, and an automatic reminder email will be sent only to those students who have yet to complete their course evaluations before the administration window closes.

How can I encourage students to access their course evaluations?

Students can access their course evaluations in several ways:

  1. By clicking on the link to any email communication sent from [insert course evaluation email address]. This will prompt students to log in to the Course Evaluation software using their SLC username and password (i.e., their single sign-on);

  2. by logging into Blackboard, under “My Blackboard”, students will see a Course Evaluation section; and by

  3. using their SLC single sign-on to launch the Course Evaluation application by Anthology.

How many course evaluations do students need to complete?

It’s important to encourage your students to evaluate each and every one of their courses in their Course Evaluation dashboard and not just the ones that they particularly like or dislike. When participation rates are low, you risk getting an inaccurate or biased sample of students’ responses and feedback, which may not accurately or completely represent the diversity of student opinions and experiences. It’s difficult for educators to make sense of a small or incomplete sample of student responses.

What types of questions are asked within course evaluations?

Course evaluation items cover domains that are important to high-quality teaching and learning. These domains can include questions gathering students’ perspectives on the quality of:

  1. the course design;

  2. the learning environment (onsite and online);

  3. teaching, instruction, and facilitation; 4) assessment and evaluation; and overall impressions of teaching and learning experiences.

The questionnaire will include closed- and open-ended questions.

Closed-ended (selected response) questions

Closed-ended (selected response) questions often take the form of Likert-scale items, which ask students about their level of agreement with specific statements on a four-point scale (Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree) with the option to select ‘Not Applicable’, as needed. Students may also be asked to rate their overall impression of teaching and learning experiences for each course using a four-point quality scale (excellent, good, fair, or poor).

Open-ended (constructed response) questions

Open-ended (constructed response) questions often ask students to provide additional overall feedback (i.e., constructive comments) to their course instructor about what they would like to see more of (i.e., start doing), what they would like to see continue in your future teaching, and what was not particularly helpful or useful to their learning (i.e., stop doing).

Are student responses confidential?

Yes, students’ responses are confidential. As the course instructor, you will not be able to identify ‘who said what’ (unless a student accidentally discloses identifying information in their feedback). A summary report of your course evaluation results will only be generated and shared with you once:

  1. a minimum of five students have completed the online questionnaire; and

  2. after your final grades have been officially submitted. The results are presented in aggregate, which means you will receive a summary of your quantitative scores (numerical) and qualitative feedback (comments).

What about student biases?

All human beings hold implicit biases, which are unconscious beliefs and mindsets about people and their capacities, that we learn over time from our families, our community, and the media (including social media). At SLC, we all have a role to play when it comes to encouraging and reminding students to continuously reflect upon and identify any prejudices or stereotypes that could influence the way we collaborate and communicate with others. As the instructor, we encourage you to remind students that course evaluations will have an impact on real people in our SLC community. To respond fairly, students need to take the opportunity to reflect on and isolate their own implicit biases about their educator’s gender, race, sexual identity, or religion; none of which should impact the quality of educational experiences provided in the classroom.


How are course evaluations intended to be used?

By Students

Course evaluations are an important formalized opportunity for students to pause, self-reflect on the quality of their learning experiences, and identify opportunities for improvement to share with each course instructor.

By Faculty

Course instructors can be supported to interpret and use feedback from their course evaluations to identify areas of strength (i.e., evidence of teaching effectiveness to showcase in their teaching dossier), opportunities for continued growth (i.e., insights as to how you can improve from one semester or academic year to the next), and next steps for self-directed professional learning (i.e., actionable next steps explaining how you plan to close gaps between desired and current performance)

By Program Leadership

Program leadership can be supported to interpret and use aggregated summary reports to identify patterns across similar courses from the perspective of students (i.e., areas of program and personnel strength and opportunities for growth/improvement and coaching).


While students’ perspectives on their learning experiences are important, we must remember that:

  1. there are limitations to each data source and evaluation tool, and

  2. there are additional stakeholders’ perspectives that we must also consider when making decisions about program improvements (e.g., program advisory committees, employers, instructors, etc.)

As an instructor, how can I encourage my students to participate and complete useful course evaluations?

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Additional Support

What is Anthology Course Evaluations?

Anthology (formerly Campus Labs) is the online course evaluation platform SLC is using to gather feedback from students about their learning experiences. Anthology was selected because it integrates into Blackboard, our LMS, and allows students to complete their online questionnaires using our SLC.me single log-in on any computer, tablet, or mobile device.