October 14, 2015

An expanded pilot of SFU’s online student evaluation system begins

Corinne Pitre-Hayes is leading SFU's implementation of a new online system for student evaluation of teaching and learning (SETC).

During the summer 2015 term, instructors and students in 37 Education and Health Sciences courses participated in the first pilot of SFU’s new online system for student evaluation of teaching and courses (SETC). The final debrief hasn’t been completed yet, but the preliminary verdict is positive.

“People seem to find using the system quite straightforward,” says SETC project director Corinne Pitre-Hayes, “and most instructors and academic units seem to appreciate the opportunity to select or create their own questions [for the evaluation forms].”

The insights gained during the summer pilot are shaping Pilot 2, an expanded SETC implementation this fall involving courses from Education, Health Sciences, the Faculty of Science and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT).

“We learned a lot [in Pilot 1] that we are now applying to the fall pilot,” says Pitre-Hayes. Some of those lessons relate to the operational side of the process; others pertain to the content of the evaluation forms. The Faculty of Education, for example, will be refining its Faculty-wide questions, and the University’s SETC Working Group plans to revise the institutional questions included on the forms.  

For Pitre-Hayes, the biggest differences with Pilot 2 are its larger scale and increased complexity. The fall project includes more courses than the summer pilot, and, unlike Education and Health Sciences, the Faculty of Science has a departmental structure. The participation of those departments introduces a new layer of department-level questions—along with additional coordination challenges—to the mix. “It’s definitely a quantum leap from that perspective,” she says.

Part of the challenge, according to Pitre-Hayes, is that even though the online evaluation system is a centralized SFU service, its implementation is deliberately decentralized in order to make it as responsive and flexible as possible for academic units.

“I think one of the challenges of Pilot 2 will be ensuring things run smoothly at both the centralized and local levels,” she says. “We have a very small team.”

Even so, she is optimistic about the potential for the new system: “We’re really excited that instructors are beginning to embrace this new approach and can potentially see it as a way of getting better information more efficiently for their own purposes. A major focus for the project is on there being tangible benefits for instructors and academic units rather than it just being an administrative burden.”

For more information about the fall pilot, visit the SETC website.