“There was some dissatisfaction among the faculty with the way evaluations were being conducted,” recalled Phil McCartney, one of the minds behind the revamp. “We had a feeling it could be done better.”
McCartney is a member of the Teaching Effectiveness and Enhancement Committee at Northern Kentucky University. In 1999, he was a member of a small group that tried to overhaul course evaluations, starting off by putting together a report of faculty suggestions.
One of those ideas was putting the evaluations online. This could allow students to take the evaluations at a different pace, and allow for questions to be more customized. Changing up the questions was an important part of what McCartney and his colleagues hoped to accomplish, he said.
“We didn’t just want to get answers to the same question,” McCartney said. “We wanted different, better questions, and to get more thoughtful questions, and not have a system that would go unchanged for years and years.”
Given the feeling toward the old-fashioned surveys, one might assume the project would be fast-tracked after the report. Instead, finding the right methods and then convincing faculty of those changes took more than a decade.
“There was this general paranoia at the time about the technology,” McCartney said.
Kenneth Rhee, another member of the TEEC said the paranoia might have went even deeper than that. Many faculty did not like the old evaluations, but they had grown accustomed to them after more than 30 years of use.
“For some of those who were opposed, yes, it was about the technological change, but a lot of the obstacles came down to figuring out how we could most effectively carry out an organizational change,” Rhee said. “We were asking people to do things in a really different way.”
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