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New CIF incentive launched

Sarah Mervosh | Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Students who fill out their Course Instructor Feedback forms (CIFs) this semester will be able to view their grades about a week earlier than students who do not, Vice President and Associate Provost of Undergraduate Studies Dennis Jacobs said.

“Last year’s response rate, averaged across all courses at the University, was 63 percent in fall 2008 and 58 percent in spring 2009,” Jacobs said. “Given the disappointing response rate last year, we are launching a university-wide campaign with a stronger incentive to improve student participation.”

Students who fill out their CIFs will be able to view their grades on Dec. 22 and students who do not complete them will be able to view their grades on Dec. 28.

The University enacted this change because 78 percent of students said having early access to grades would motivate them to complete online feedback forms, according to a survey by the Office of Institutional Research.

Jacobs said the University also based their decision off of peer institutions like Stanford, Yale and Princeton, who have very high response rates for their online student evaluation.
“We discovered they all employed a common incentive,” he said. “Those students who completed all their evaluations were able to see their grades before those students who did not complete their evaluations.”

Student body chief of staff Ryan Brellenthin said students seemed initially apprehensive about the change in policy, but supported the change once they understood the importance of CIFs.

“At first, students seem to be suspicious of the University, almost afraid that Big Brother is forcing them to fill these evaluations out,” he said. “However, once we let them know how important CIFs are to the quality of our undergraduate education, student reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive.

“CIFs are essential to the quality of the Notre Dame education because it is the best way for students to hold their instructors accountable,” he said. “In past years, there has been a perception that … the results went into some administrative black hole and would never benefit the students.”

Brellenthin said the CIFs do make a difference.

“The feedback from our evaluations plays a crucial role in deciding promotions and pay levels for our professors,” Brellenthin said.

Jacobs said he received suggestions that CIFs remain open through finals.

“This suggestion is under consideration for future semesters, but for this semester the feedback window will close before finals,” he said.

Though Jacobs said he received relatively little feedback from students about the new policy, those who responded “have commented that the new incentive is likely to be effective. One student wrote to say he felt that delaying access to grades was unfair.”
Brellenthin said the new policy is not intended to be a punishment.

“Students are not being punished for not filling out their CIFs,” he said. “Instead, the University is trying to show students that it supports their feedback by giving people who fill out their CIFs an extra incentive that is not available to people who do not.”

The new policy only applies to courses that close on or after Dec. 2, Jacobs said. CIFs for a course that already ended will not be counted.

The University will continue to allow students who fill out their CIFs to see the student feedback portion of Class Search, in addition to having early access to grades, Jacobs said.