Bubble sheets out: Faculty feedback moves to Web

Students get the upper hand with professors usually just once a semester at the very end.

That’s when they get to convey, anonymously, what they think of their classes and instructors with faculty feedback forms issued on pink and blue sheets of paper.

“If the teacher stands out as being not helpful, I give them bad marks,” said Breanna Mahone, a biochemistry sophomore. “Or if they’re really awesome, I note that. But mostly the (feedback forms) are a pain. Nobody takes their time. They just fill out the bubble.”

UAA is switching to an online format for students’ feedback on faculty – making those pink and blue sheets a thing of the past.

This semester, students will use Blackboard to give professors feedback.

Blackboard is a Website used for communication and information sharing among professors and students.

Professors will tell students when they can log onto Blackboard and give feedback.

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The form takes between five and ten minutes to fill out, according to Information Technology Services.

Mahone, the sophomore majoring in biochemistry, said she can see positive and negative results with the feedback forms going online and out of classrooms.

“It gives the students the convenience of doing it when they want to,” she said. “But on the other hand, some students might not take it unless it’s mandatory.”

Student’s feedback is taken seriously, said UAA provost Mike Driscoll.

“Faculty care about what they teach and want to teach well,” he said. “That’s absolutely true. Faculty members look at this feedback and make changes in how they teach and what the course is like.”

Feedback collected from students helps determine the fate of professors’ future at the university, Driscoll said. It factors into promotions and tenure.

Technology

Getting feedback forms quickly could help professors institute changes before the next time they teach the course, said sociology professor Nelta Edwards.

“Last spring sometime, I got my evaluations from fall semester,” she said. She had assigned the same textbook for the course again before discovering some of her students said they hated it.

The University of Kansas developed the online feedback format, called IDEA Student Rating Systems.

It will let professors incorporate student feedback into their course plan more swiftly, said Diane Byrne, director of IT Services.

From a technology perspective, eliminating paper and working with feedback forms online is always easier, she said.

“We’ll be able to produce results for the survey reports much faster,” Byrne said.

The Mat-Su campus got the IDEA system last year.

“I like it,” said Ron Crawford, a geology and film history professor who teaches at Mat-Su. “As a teacher, I welcome the fact that it gives me back more class time. I think in many way s it’s more confidential than the old system. You do it at home instead of with people sitting in a room.”

He noted that the online system has resulted in fewer technical difficulties. Running out of pencils is no longer “a pain in the rear” his students have to deal with.

However, the quick access to student feedback has its drawbacks.

Provost Driscoll said online feedback often means less input from students.

“Nationally, the data suggest online tends to get a slightly lower response rate than paper,” he added. “If you’re sitting in the classroom, and the forms are put in front of you, and what else are you going to do?”

Using Blackboard

By Mary Lochner
Students not familiar with Blackboard can take an online tutorial on the Blackboard Web site (http://technology.uaa.alaska.edu/blackboard/). Information for Blackboard’s sign-in matches the sign-in for UAA Web mail accounts. Contact IT Services at 786-4646.

Some best, worst professor grades at UAA

By Hannah Guillaume
A quick and dirty way to get the scoop on professors at UAA is through MySpace.com Grade Your Professor.

Students looking to find classes that meet their needs can go to the Learning Resource Center or Library. UAA doesn’t offer professor-grading results online.

These are some of the best and worst math, biology and English professor grades at UAA, according to other students setting the score online.

Math

Prof. Hillary Davies gets an A, according to votes from seven students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about her class online included:

“Dr. Davies is a really great professor. She can be hard to understand in class and if you have trouble hearing, you need to sit up front. Overall, it is not hard to pass her class if you do some of the homework and show up to class regularly.”

Prof. Robert McCoy gets a B-, according to votes from 13 students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about his class online included:

“Without a doubt the most boring professor I’ve ever met. Ben Stein dryness… And even though I did great on the tests (all A’s) and turned in my homework on time…I still got a B because I couldn’t stand to stay in class the whole time. It was THAT monotone.”

English

Prof. Robert Crosman gets an A+, according to votes from seven students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about his class included:

“Very chill class, very laid back and nice professor…willing to work with you on every level…. just go to class, it’s as simple as that! VERY RELAXING AND EASY!!!!”

Prof. Charles Beirnard gets a D+, according to votes from 18 students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about his class included:

“He actually said that the Internet is not a professional credible source of information for a report no matter what site. Like you could be at www.oxforddictionary.com and he would say it’s not professionally credible.”

Biology

Prof. David Pfeiffer gets an A+, according to votes from 12 students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about his class included:

“Amazing teacher. He presents the material in a variety of ways to suit a variety of learning methods. He is probably one of the best teachers at UAA. Like others said, attendance is crucial to success in the course.”

Prof. Jon Nickles gets a B+, according to votes from 15 students at MySpace.com Grade Your Professor. Student comments about his class included:

“He’s very nice, but it’s hard to learn from him…. he goes way to fast especially for just three hours a week. It’s best to have a study group in his class…”