The Student Government Association is proposing to make end-of-semester course evaluations public to Northern Kentucky University students.
“It would create, in some ways, an internal, NKU-specific ratemyprofessor,” said Dustin Robinson, a senior communication studies major who currently serves as the lame duck SGA president. “NKU students will be able to access those responses from other students for the faculty evaluations.”
Robinson said that when SGA was trying to figure out how to increase the number of students participating in course evaluations, they looked at other universities and found that some had made evaluations available to students.
By making evaluations available to students, SGA hopes that student participation in the evaluation process will rise and students will receive a better educational experience.
“I think this would give NKU students more of an incentive to participate in the course evaluation process,” Robinson said. “What we are trying to do is just make the academic experience better for our students so that they can see reliable information from other students.”
According to SGA, a Norse2020 survey reported that over half the student body uses ratemyprofessors.com. The Website uses categorical ratings submitted by students to determine an “overall quality” average. These categories include helpfulness, clarity, easiness and “hottness.” Robinson believes that an NKU version will be more reliable and helpful to students.
“Easiness wouldn’t be on that website, or hotness, because those aren’t things that we should focus on when talking about learning,” Robinson said. “We should look at if the professor adequately follows the syllabus and those kind of things.”
Making the evaluations public is no easy task. There are many factors that still need to be addressed should the evaluations be declassified, such as how faculty and students will access the evaluations.
“That would be something that IT would have to work on for us,” Robinson said. “It may be something that takes a little longer to implement, since we are asking them to create something new.”
Other factors include how students and professors might react to the publication of the evaluations.
“We need to be very careful as to how we go about this process and to watch out for unintentional consequences,” said Kenneth Rhee, the chair of the teaching effectiveness and enhancement committee that oversees the course evaluation process. “Professors’ behaviors may change, students’ behaviors may change; and that’s not what we want.”
Another concern is about false and unfair comments.
“In a sense, these evaluations are somewhat blank grades given to faculty members by students anonymously for which there’s no appeal,” said committee member Philip McCartney. “The tendency of faculty is already to feel they have a bull’s-eye on their back that any student can make any comment and give them any sort of rating, and there’s no recourse about it.”
Despite these factors, students are open to the idea of making the evaluations public.
“I’m all for it,” said freshman education major Danielle Grout. “Letting students see evaluations can let them get the education they want.”
Some students like that it could be a more reliable source than ratemyprofessors.com.
“I think it could be better than ratemyprofessor,” said senior business management major Nick Fecher. “With ratemyprofessor, you don’t know who fills it in, but with this, it could be legitimate answers and more accurate.”
“I don’t really use ratemyprofessor, because you don’t know if it’s true,” said Adam Gillespie, a junior middle school education major. “But I would trust the NKU version more, since I know some people here.”
Students believe that by being able to see the evaluations, it will allow them to pick professors that fit them best.
“I would use it to choose a professor that best fits my standards and to base my course schedules too,” said junior exercise science major Jillian Moulton.
“It would give me more of a better understanding and could help pick some good teachers to help me understand what’s being taught,” said Aurielle Harkness, a senior psychology major.
Should the proposal be passed, it must await student senate approval before the executive board can act upon it.
“The proposal would allow students to really see a universal way to evaluate our professors and give a really credible way to plan your academic experience and for people with different learning styles, that can be a really great thing,” Robinson said.