As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Are the Canvas course evaluations anonymous?”
The evaluations are anonymous and are conducted through a Canvas-compatible software called EvaluationKIT, according to Heath Tuttle, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s chief information officer and Information Technology Services assistant vice president for the University of Nebraska system.
Departments and faculty have no way of tracking who submitted which response, but they do know the number of students that did and did not complete an evaluation, he said.
Student responses are held until after final grades are posted at the end of the semester, Tuttle said, and the program sends its results to individual course professors and departments who can take the information and results and apply it to the future.
Judy Walker, mathematics professor and associate vice chancellor for Faculty and Academic Affairs, said effective teaching is one of UNL’s core missions.
“Instructors at all levels … very much want to be doing a good job in the classroom,” Walker said. “One of those ways is through student feedback and student perceptions.”
She said UNL’s colleges are beginning to roll out a core set of questions for undergraduate students to be asked in addition to a limited number of questions added by individual departments and faculty. Not all colleges are using the core set but are moving toward the model.
The core set of questions is designed to make evaluations more student-oriented, Walker said, and asks students more for their experiences in a course as opposed to students’ opinions of an instructor’s effectiveness, which may be beyond the scope of a student’s experience.
“Student feedback is one piece of that data,” she said. “It’s not the only piece, but it is one important piece of that data that we need to have.”
If a course is taught in multiple sections, Walker said departments can utilize student feedback to ensure uniformity across sections and determine course assignments and pacing.
Evaluations are not a new concept, Tuttle said, but starting as a large pilot in the spring, EvaluationKIT was chosen by a committee designated to choose a new evaluation software program. CrsEval has been used in the past, and is still being used, but is being phased out with a move to EvaluationKIT for ease, efficiency and a more modernized way to record student responses.
According to Tuttle, ITS looked at different software programs and talked with vendors who allowed the committee to evaluate the software programs and choose the best one for UNL.
“We didn’t actually get them up and running, but we had sandbox and demo sits so people could look at it and we could look at what kind of analytics you could get out of the back end,” Tuttle said.
Course evaluations do not impact a student’s grades and most will close on Friday, Tuttle said, but students are encouraged to provide their feedback so departments and faculty can improve and take suggestions for future instruction.
“From my perspective I just think it’s really important for students to have the peace of mind to know that they can respond honestly with their evaluations,” Tuttle said. “I think that anonymity provides that peace of mind for students.”