The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Student Senate discusses online course evaluations

A discussion about online course evaluations, how they could be improved and whether data could be released to students, dominated Tuesday’s Student Senate meeting.

Director of Academic Technology Services Brad Boeke spoke to Student Senate during Speaker’s Podium. Boeke was looking to form a relationship with Senate, since students are the biggest users of academic technology. He also sought students to participate in an advisory group concerning learning management systems.

Boeke took many questions from senators about online course evaluations—and whether any data could be published online for SMU students to use when signing up for classes.

Student Body President Jake Torres asked whether SMU could add two questions to each online course evaluation: 1. Would you take this professor again? and 2. Would you recommend the class?

Diversity Chair Jasmine Carr echoed Torres.

“What’s most beneficial to students, what we want to see,” she said, “is just simply those two questions. [I’m] not saying that the other questions should be taken away, but is it possible for students to simply see those two questions?”

Boeke said each school uses a different set of questions and that the logistics would be the hardest part. He also noted that the actual data gathered from the evaluations is owned and controlled by each of the schools.

Boeke said he’d like the university to move to a consistent question set, making it easier to pick out specific data sets and make them available.

Boeke is also in favor of publishing evaluations online for students.

“It’s useful to know if you’re shopping around for classes a thumbs up or thumbs down for a course or a professor at least at a broad level without divulging too much information,” he said, although he acknowledged during the meeting that it was a controversial issue.

Sen. Alex Ehmke (Dedman II) agreed that there should be some sort of published evaluations for professors.

“I think that a lot of students are frustrated because there’s no concrete results that we get to see,” he said. “I feel like an SMU-endorsed RateMyProf system, if it was possible, would be extremely beneficial.”

Ehmke argued that such a system would increase student participation in online course evaluations.

Sen. Shana Ray (Meadows) asked whether course evaluations could be put off until they know their grades.

“I think another issue why students don’t want to do the surveys is that they want to see their grades first,” she said.

Boeke responded that Ray’s issue was the biggest fear that faculty has: that a final exam would negatively color a student’s experiences with the class.

“Some [professors] want the whole course and some say it needs to stop before the final because they’re so afraid that the final will slam it the other way [negatively],” Boeke said.

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