Electronic Course Evaluations at Western Washington University: A Report of the Spring Quarter, 2010 Pilot

John Krieg, Western Washington University
Beth Hartsoch, Western Washington University


Electronic course evaluations are becoming a popular, inexpensive substitute for traditional paper course evaluations. Electronic evaluations are easy to implement, reduce the impact on instructor time, are more uniform in their administration, and can reduce printing and paper costs. Further, some usually unexpected benefits can accrue from electronic evaluations. For instance, students appear to respond in more detail to open ended electronic questions than they would to the same question posed in paper format. While there are clear benefits from electronic course evaluations, there also exist pitfalls. Research suggests students view electronic evaluations as less anonymous thereby bringing into question the validity of student responses. Two other common and related concerns are that electronic course evaluations receive fewer student responses and those who do respond are not representative of the population of enrolled students. Student response rates and the impact of electronic course evaluations on instructor ratings are the focus of this report. The Office of Survey Research (OSR) conducted a controlled pilot of electronic course evaluations during Spring Quarter, 2010. This pilot provided the opportunity to learn about OSR’s ability to implement large scale electronic evaluations and simultaneously investigate the impact of these evaluations relative to traditional paper evaluations. OSR piloted electronic evaluations with 21 WWU instructors teaching 23 different CRNs. Of these 23 CRNs, 3 were part of large, multiple CRN courses whose other CRNs were evaluated with the traditional paper thus providing a control group with which to measure the impact of electronic course evaluations. Seven CRNs were taught by instructors who were simultaneously teaching at least one different section of the same course. These other CRNs serve as a control group. Thirteen CRNs were taught by instructors who taught the same course in a previous quarter;