Online Student Ratings of Instruction

By D. Lynn Sorenson; Trav D. Johnson | Go to book overview

1
Charting the Uncharted Seas of Online
Student Ratings of Instruction

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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