Purdue University professors soon will get faster feedback from students, thanks to a new online evaluation system.

Currently, students rate their professors through written evaluations, which are then typed out so an instructor does not know which student made the comments. Typing the responses can take weeks or months. The new online system can show professors student comments in as little as one day.

Purdue piloted the online evaluation program in fall 2006, testing many course formats to ensure that every class was compatible with the system, known as CoursEval 3.0. More than 29,000 students in 800 classes were involved in the pilot program.

Completion of the online evaluation surveys was not dramatically different compared with the old system. Using pencil and paper, 69 percent of Purdue students responded; responding online, 71 percent completed the form, according to media reports.

But, besides giving professors feedback on their courses much faster, the online system also is expected to save paper. Purdue estimates the change will save about 985,500 pieces of paper each semester.

University officials said the paper-and-pencil system often required students to use class time to fill out evaluations. Now, students–who will have two weeks to submit their surveys–can complete evaluation surveys as soon as the university makes them available.

CoursEval 3.0 will allow professors to compile suggestions and improve their courses before the start of the next semester–a feat not always accomplished with the current system, officials said.

"The value to students is that this rapid turnaround allows sufficient time for instructors to modify and improve their courses based on the feedback received, well before the next semester begins," said Marne Helgesen, director of the university’s Center for Instructional Excellence.

Purdue University conducted a survey of students and professors who participated in the 2006 pilot and found "extremely favorable" responses, according to a university statement released last month.

"This is the right thing to do at an opportune time–the technology is available and equipment supporting the old system is nearing the end of its useful lifetime," Helgesen said. "Everyone who has worked to bring this transition about is very excited about its many advantages and the potential to improve our course evaluation system."

By the end of the fall semester, 24 departments at Purdue will use the CoursEval 3.0 system, including schools within the colleges of science, agriculture, and engineering.

CoursEval 3.0 was created by Academic Management Systems (AMS), a company started in 1996 as a software developer at the University of Buffalo’s Health Science Center.

The Amherst, N.Y.-based company charges colleges on a "case-by-case" basis for CoursEval installation and upkeep, according to the AMS web site.

More than 150 colleges and universities use CoursEval 3.0, including Arizona State University, the University of Minnesota, and Louisiana State University, the company says.

Links:

CoursEval 3.0

Purdue University