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TCEs replaced with online feedback forms

Tess Civantos | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beginning this semester, Notre Dame’s Teacher and Course Evaluations (TCEs) will be replaced by the online Course Instructor Feedback forms (CIFs), which students will be able to consult for advice when registering for classes next semester, assistant provost Dennis Jacobs said.

When students register for spring semester classes, the traditional registration information, such as the course description and availability, will appear on the registration website as usual, but below them will be a new section titled “Detailed Course Information.”

This section, known as Enhanced Class Search (ECS), will include the instructor’s description of the course, the enrollment history and student ratings. The last section comes directly from questions students answer on the CIF evaluation forms.

Jacobs said they decided to make course evaluation information available to students as a resource to help students decide which classes to take. Before this system, students’ sources for information about a professor or class were limited to anecdotes from upperclassmen who had already taken the course or to websites like ndtoday.com, Jacobs said.

The new system will be available to all students Oct. 30, and will continue to be updated.

“The data is not going to be nearly as complete by Oct. 30 as we hope it will eventually become,” Jacobs said.

However, to ensure students approach the CIFs seriously, they can only see the detailed course information if they have filled out a CIF for each of the previous semester’s classes, Jacobs said.

“The primary concern was, will students respond? Will they take the time to go online and fill this out?” he said.

Jacobs said the University’s Advisory Committee to the Provost on the Evaluation of Teaching (ACPET) has been working on the new feedback system for three years.

Notre Dame has also used data from other universities that have implemented an online feedback system, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Northwestern, according to a document released by ACPET.

“When the committee looked at the existing TCE, there were a lot of concerns. It required a comprehensive redesign,” Jacobs said. “One of the concerns that has always plagued us is that the items, or questions, were the same if you were taking a science class, an art class, a seminar. It didn’t reflect the diversity of classes.”

To address this concern, ACPET sought to create a form with more flexibility, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said another problem with the TCEs was professors could opt not to participate. In Fall 2006, for example, TCEs were not collected in 181 class sections that were designated for evaluation.