Students are once again ready to have their say when it comes to the direction and planning of future courses at Western, with the Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching scheduled to be conducted Nov. 20-Dec. 8.
Student feedback plays a major role in improving courses, informing program development and helping students in future course selection, said John Doerksen, Vice-Provost (Academic Programs). That feedback is also considered in regular faculty reviews, including promotion and tenure decisions.
“Many of my colleagues take the feedback seriously. It shapes future offerings of the courses and teaching strategies,” Doerksen said. “It is just one kind of feedback, of course, but it gives a voice to students, who are partners in the learning experience.”
There are two new survey options available for faculty this fall. The first involves a midterm check-in, where instructors can use the online system halfway through the term to get student feedback. The second allows instructors to add two additional questions of their choosing to the end-of-course questionnaire; instructors are the only ones to see feedback on the optional questions.
“My hope is faculty will see merit in getting feedback linked to priorities in their teaching practices,” Doerksen said.
Both options are entirely at the discretion of instructors. Because of that, students may notice some variation in the questionnaire from one course to the next, depending on the options their instructor chooses.
But what remains is the fact students can now complete the questionnaire online – a practice now in its third go-around as a fully digital version.
Doerksen is pleased by the success of the transition to an online system, aided by the patience and goodwill of many colleagues across campus. He feels students are taking advantage of the three-week window and are now more willing to write longer comments.
“Response rates vary across units but, generally, instructors who emphasize the importance of the process in class see better feedback rates,” he said, adding the university is now able to provide instructor reports much earlier since going paperless.
Doerksen is thrilled to have seen the overall response rate go up in the first full academic year, something that hasn’t happened at other universities who have transitioned from paper to an online system.
“Many campus partners, including students, have played a key role in this outcome,” he said.
With around three weeks remaining in their courses, students will receive an email with a link to the questionnaire that can be filled out during class, or at a later date. If students aren’t in class the day the questionnaire is released, they may still participate.