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OIT works on CIF system after Dec. crash

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The University’s Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) system experienced problems at the end of last semester, resulting in the entire student body receiving their grades at the earliest time, Erin Hoffmann Harding, associate vice president for Strategic Planning, said.

“For a period of about three hours on the last night of the CIF window for most undergraduate courses, the OIT server supporting the CIF system experienced a slow down in performance,” Hoffmann Harding said. “The system never crashed, almost 1,000 surveys were successfully submitted during this time and no information was lost.”

Some students who tried to access the system could not complete their CIFs, she said. Beginning during the 2009 fall semester, completing CIFs allowed students to view their semester grades seven days early.

“The system slow down prevented some students from successfully submitting their CIFs,” she said. “Unfortunately, it was not possible to reopen the survey system prior to the beginning of final exams. It was also not feasible to identify which students had been affected by the slowed performance.”

Administrators decided to modify the grade holding policy for the fall semester only, Hoffmann Harding said. OIT is investigating the system problems, and the early grade incentive will exist again in the spring.

Hoffmann Harding said the CIF system is still in development, and the next priority is to solve the performance speed.

“The system will also soon have the ability to provide more customized information to students in e-mails about which CIFs they still need to complete and when their individual survey windows close,” she said. “We welcome suggestions about other enhancements that would improve students’ ability to offer feedback to their professors.”

The response rate was 78 percent for all of the fall 2010 courses, she said. This rate was lower than fall 2009, but exceeded the response rate for fall 2008.

Dennis Jacobs, vice president and associate provost, said feedback from CIFs is integrated into the classroom through feedback given directly to departments and faculty.

“Instructors are provided with a detailed summary report of the CIF data collected for every course section they teach,” Jacobs said. “For each CIF item, the instructor can see the distribution of student responses, a calculated mean score, and a comparison to the scores received by other faculty who teach similar courses at Notre Dame.”

Professors also see the open-ended answers, but they cannot see student names, he said. This allows for anonymity.

“Many faculty members reflect on thoughtful CIF feedback from their students as they consider ways to improve their teaching in future semesters,” he said.

Past improvements to CIFs have provided more incentive for students to complete them, Jacobs said.

“Five of the questions appearing on the CIF were written together by students and faculty with the purpose of providing more information at the time of course selection,” he said. “The results to these five items are displayed within Class Search on the Registrar’s website.”

Only students who have completed their CIFs the previous semester can view these results, Jacobs said.

“This enhancement to Class Search along with gaining earlier access to grades provide two valuable incentives for students to complete all their CIFs,” he said.