Your engagement as an instructor can impact the engagement of your students. A low-tech option for encouraging student engagement can be as simple as posting an Announcement in your LMS. Let students know you’re present in the course and that you expect them to be present as well. Offer regularly scheduled or on-demand office hours which can serve as a virtual one-on-one check-in with your students.
Course statistics within your LMS can reveal which course elements students engaged with most and may help you identify areas students underutilized. Blackboard, Moodle, and other LMS platforms have various reporting mechanisms to help you sift through this data. Canvas, for example, has course statistics that display trends such as student log in and course access data, assignment submissions, and file storage information. For video and audio files in Canvas, Insights can help you determine how students interacted with the multimedia.
Types of Evaluation
How do you know which aspects of your course were best received by your students? Which elements were confusing? What should you change, or keep the same, for your next class?
To answer these questions, thoroughly evaluate your course following each offering. Review each element you’ve included: content, page layout, tools, technology, etc. Make changes according to the data you collect, when the time is right.
It can be tempting to continuously update the course as a semester progresses, but this will potentially confuse students and take your focus away from teaching. Instead, it’s a best practice to keep a log of ideas for improvement, then tackle the bigger changes when the semester is complete. This will also help your time spent to be more efficient. After all, you want the course to be the best it can be.
There are four times you could evaluate your course.
Before the course begins, conduct a pre-assessment to gauge students’ abilities or depth of knowledge.
This can give you great insight into topics your students have already mastered or which might need some additional support.
When should you use a pre-semester evaluation?
Example: You’re teaching a course in a new online degree program and want to determine student expectations.
Sample Pre-course Survey—Sending a Survey to Students:
How many online courses have you taken in the past 5 years?
- I have never taken an online course
- 1 online course
- 2–4 online courses
- 5+ online courses
How many hours per week do you plan to spend on this course, on average?
- Less than 1 hour
- 1–3 hours
- 4–6 hours
- 7–9 hours
- 10+ hours
What are the preferred ways for your instructor to communicate with you? (Select all that apply.)
- Discussion board
- Video conference (e.g., Skype or Google Hangout)
- Phone call
- Text message (SMS)
Conduct mid-semester evaluations to gauge how your class is responding to the course.
At the halfway point, it can be difficult to make significant changes to the course, but you can get ideas on what to modify for future semesters.
When should you use a mid-semester evaluation?
Example: Over half of your students perform low (Cs and Ds) on a test.
Sample Mid-semester Survey—Sending a Survey to Students:
Please answer the following questions with Yes or No.
- Are the video lectures helpful to you?
- Do you want to continue having weekly ungraded quizzes?
- Have you used the textbook’s website for supplemental learning activities?
End-of-course evaluations could be developed by the University or your department, or they could be evaluations you create independently to evaluate course content and functionality.
When should you use a post-semester evaluation?
Example: Conduct a survey to learn if students could easily navigate the course website.
Sample Post-semester Survey—Sending a Survey to Students:
How would you rate this course overall?
Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements on your overall course experience (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree):
- I would recommend this course to other students.
- I was actively engaged in learning the course material.
- I can describe ways to apply the knowledge learned in this course.
Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements on the course website (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree):
- It was easy to locate what I was looking for in this course (assignments, discussion, lectures, etc.).
- I had no problems using the course website (hyperlinks opened, videos played, etc.).
- I knew where to find technical help if I need it.
Use an emergency evaluation when there is a problem interfering with students’ learning. Usually, this is when students can’t access an item such as a reading or test, or a tool stops working.
If it isn’t an emergency, save those changes for after the semester.
When should you use an emergency evaluation?
Example: Your assignment tool is no longer functional.
Sample Emergency Evaluation—Sending an Email to the Class:
It’s been brought to my attention that the Google Docs set up for your group assignment are not working correctly. For example, when you try to open your document you will see an error message stating that you do not have permission to edit the content. By 12:00pm tomorrow I will have updated Google Docs shared with you with the correct permissions enabled. Because of this error, the assignment deadline will be extended by 24 hours. The new deadline is 12:00pm on Friday.
—Thanks, Dr. Harding
Consider whether your evaluation will be anonymous or if students will give feedback tied to their name. Depending on the type of feedback you’re interested in, an anonymous evaluation may be best.
For example, if you’re conducting a mid-semester evaluation and want honest student feedback on what is and isn’t working in the course, students may be more inclined to be open and provide constructive criticism if they are protected by anonymity.
Alternatively, an emergency evaluation may be offered as an opportunity to receive personally identifiable feedback to determine which students are struggling with something like accessing a video or reading, for example.
Create an Evaluation
Creating surveys is a great way to evaluate the success of various elements of your course. There are lots of free tools available to help you ask the right questions, measure the right responses, and analyze the results.
Writing a survey can be a new experience for instructors. Follow best practices to develop surveys that are simple, relevant, and unbiased.
- Ask 10 questions or fewer
- Include questions that intentionally collect data you have a specified use for; don’t ask questions that are not purposeful
- Ensure all possible responses are represented
- Include free response questions; they provide the opportunity for students to share their thoughts
- Set expectations for the user experience in the survey instructions, such as length of time the survey is anticipated to take
- Incentives, if it’s possible to offer them, can persuade students to complete a survey
Depending on the type of evaluation conducted, your software may have valuable reporting capabilities. Qualtrics, for instance, has robust data analysis capabilities. Learning the basics of how to read respondent data can help you determine which student feedback to prioritize and assist you with identifying the areas of your course that students are most drawn to.
Rubrics and Checklists
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