Staff Editorial: Course evaluations

The Lawrentian

Recently many students received an email from the Committee on Teaching Development in regards to their research of the university’s low response rate for course evaluations. We at The Lawrentian feel this is a worthwhile effort.

We believe that course evaluations are an important component of our individualized Lawrence education, and students should take the opportunity to provide feedback. However, we have a few thoughts on how the course evaluation process could be improved.

Currently, the course evaluations are only open to students during a brief window of time that occurs during the busiest point in the term, finals. We suggest extending the time window past finals week. Students are more likely to prioritize course evaluations when they have less on their plates. We believe that participation in course evaluations might increase if students were able to complete them up to two weeks after the end of term.

Course evaluation response rates might also be improved by moving the evaluations to an external website or link. Some students have expressed concern that their answers may not be completely anonymous because they are being filled out through Voyager, a website that is logged into with an official username and password. If course evaluations were completed on an external site and not through Voyager, students might have a greater security in the anonymity of their answers. This external website could be linked to from the Lawrence homepage, as well as Voyager.

Professors can also play a direct role in their course evaluation completion rates. Numerous professors already set aside class time to complete evaluations. If all professors set aside the 10-15 minutes necessary for these evaluations, participation rates would likely increase dramatically.

We at The Lawrentian believe that course evaluations are a vital part of our unique Lawrence education. Since Lawrence is a very small university, one student’s evaluation can actually have a tangible effect on how a professor teaches — at Lawrence, professors actually care about the student’s experience and feedback.

Some professors at Lawrence are in their first years of teaching, and they might really appreciate feedback. Future employers may examine evaluations, as professors move to other institutions. Other professors might also look for feedback on courses they are offering for the first time.

Although some students might feel that course evaluations are pointless because they will not affect their immediate future, these students should be conscientious of future students who will someday take the same course. We’d all like to enjoy taking courses that have been perfected and tweaked with the help of previous students’ advice.

We at The Lawrentian strongly believe that course evaluations are an important aspect of the much-advertised “Lawrence Difference,” although some changes could be made to make them more student-friendly. However, students also have to put more initiative into completing these worthwhile evaluations.