Online Student Ratings of Instruction

Online Student Ratings of Instruction

Online Student Ratings of Instruction

Online Student Ratings of Instruction


This volume examines the development and growing use of online student ratings and the potential impact online rating systems will have on the future of students' evaluations of teaching. The contributors demonstrate how the preference for online evaluation is growing, even amidst challenges and doubt. Sharing their first-hand experience as researchers and administrators of online systems, they explore major concerns regarding online student ratings and suggest possible solutions.

D. Lynn Sorenson and Christian M. Reiner review existing online-rating systems that have been developed independently across the globe. Kevin Hoffman presents the results of a national survey that tracks the increased use of the Internet for student ratings of instruction. At Northwestern University, Nedra Hardy demonstrates how ongoing research about online student evaluations is helping to dispel common misperceptions.

Application of online rating systems can present institutions with new challenges and obligations. Trav D. Johnson details a case study based on five years of research in the response rates for one university's online evaluation system and suggests strategies to increase student participation. Reviewing online reporting of results of online student ratings, Donna C. Llewellyn explores the emerging issues of security, logistics, and confidentiality.

Other chapters explore existing online systems, highlighting their potential benefits for institution and instructor alike. Beatrice Tucker, Sue Jones, Lean Straker, and Joan Cole analyze Course Evaluation on the Web (CEW), a comprehensive online system for instructional feedback and improvement. Cheryl Davis Bullock reviews the Evaluation Online (EON) system and its successful role in facilitating midcourse student feedback.

The fate of online rating may rest in the unique advantages it may - or may not - have over traditional ratings systems. Debbie E. McGhee and Nana Lowell compare online and paper-based methods through mean ratings, inter-rater reliabilities and factor structure of items. Comparing systems from another angle, Timothy W. Bothell and Tom Henderson examine the fiscal costs and benefits of implementing an online evaluation system over paper-based systems.

Finally, Christina Ballantyne considers the prominent issues and thought-provoking ideas for the future of online student ratings raised in this volume. Together, the contributors bring insight and understanding to the processes involved in researching and initiating innovations in online-rating systems.

This is the 96th issues of the quarterly journal New Directions for Teaching and Learning.


Are online student ratings the “wave of the future”? This
chapter introduces numerous advantages and challenges
of adopting an online system for student evaluation of
teaching; in it, the authors preview the research of the
other authors of this volume and suggest areas that
universities can investigate when determining the
desirability of initiating an online ratings system for
student evaluation of instruction.

D. Lynn Sorenson, Christian Reiner

In attempting to “chart uncharted seas,” it is sometimes helpful to look back at earlier journeys that were once uncharted but are now well traveled. Consider that, in the 1970s, it seemed unlikely that word processing would be useful anywhere except in a typing pool. Now it is ubiquitous, and typing pools, as such, have ceased to exist. Then, in the 1980s, when the Internet made its arcane and awkward entrance onto the world's stage, it appeared to be a fun toy for playful “techies” or, perhaps, a serious communication device for nasa scientists. It seemed unlikely that it would affect much of anything in the real world or in most of academe. Now, time has revealed its irreplaceable value to all of academe, to business, to government, and even to isolated villagers in newly named countries. in a word, the world will never be the same.

Today nearly every function in society can be—and is—performed online: online shopping, online reservations, online chat rooms, online music, online movies, online dating, online counseling, online birthing instruction, and online funeral planning. And, of course, academe has embraced the Web for a myriad of functions: online admissions, online registration, online grades, online libraries, online databases, online research, online teaching, online testing, online conferences, and online universities! Is it such a far reach to imagine the Internet supplanting cumbersome paper systems for the student ratings of instruction in higher education—slowly now at first, and rapidly, even completely, in the future? Will paper ratings go the way of typing pools and slide rules?

The idea of an online student-rating system is a “cutting-edge” proposition (in comparison to a traditional paper-based system). An electronic . . .

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