The ALTA report suggests that the questions in the SCORE evaluation could be made to emulate those of the Student Course Guide by: “1) asking about how much work the course required relative to other courses and 2) having a separate feedback form for each course’s professor.” The board agrees with and promotes both of these recommendations. Course syllabi often fail to adequately convey workload, and information about professors is just as — if not more — valuable than information about the course itself.
Adding additional questions about workload, such as “Is the workload consistent throughout the semester?” or “Is the workload consistent with that stated on the syllabus?” would further benefit students as they choose courses. In addition, the board believes that the Registrar’s course evaluations should permit students to search evaluations by professor rather than merely by course. This functionality would be useful because professors often offer new, previously untaught courses, and several popular courses are taught by different professors each semester.
Preceptors are not far behind professors in influencing students’ experiences in a class. While the board recognizes that preceptors vary from year to year, students ought to be provided with evaluations of the preceptor from past precepts or be made aware if he or she is a first-time preceptor. For this information to be fully useful, departments should be required to list who is teaching each precept before students indicate their section preferences. This would allow students who care deeply about the material to maximize their learning by reading evaluations and selecting a preceptor compatible with their learning styles. Having accessible reviews of preceptors would also inform departments about preceptors who are excelling in their roles and those who are consistently judged to be underwhelming. The board recognizes that indicating which precepts are taught by specific preceptors would lead to oversubscription of certain precepts; in that case, we believe the randomizing tool currently employed by Blackboard should still be used to sort students.
In addition to including information about the workload, professor and preceptor and making evaluations searchable by professor and preceptor, navigating evaluations should be made easier. Currently, browsing must be done by semester, and students do not necessarily know when a course was last taught or last taught by a certain professor. Allowing students to search across semesters would be a small change that would improve the course selection process.
Finally, in order for all of these improvements to be as influential as possible, the deadline for course evaluations should be extended until the end of Intersession so that more students would be able to complete them thoroughly. Presently, the deadline for the completion is right after finals, which increases the likelihood that students will not be able to complete their evaluations. We recognize that extending the deadline would mean that students would not have the fall evaluations for the beginning of their spring semester, but this is not a serious issue: Most courses are only offered once during the year, and those that are offered twice are usually taught by a different professor in the fall and spring.
The SCORE course evaluations have great potential to help students in the course selection process. While they currently offer some guidance to students in the course selection process, the board believes that the above-mentioned changes would significantly increase their utility.
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