Temple has been using electronic student feedback forms for the past four semesters, but beginning this fall, students are able to access the data from past students’ forms via TUportal.
The newly-available data is designed to help students see what their peers think of specific courses and professors.
Student Body President Darin Bartholomew said students seem excited about viewing data that was submitted by people who have completed the course.
“The overall majority of students have been really excited about the ability to go on the Internet and see data from people who you know took the class,” Bartholomew said. “You know these are students at Temple, which is a clear advantage over something like [RateMyProfessors.com] where anybody can go on there, put whatever they want. If they have multiple email addresses, they might be able to post more than one time about a professor, so this is much more accurate.”
While the online data represents a new level of transparency in student feedback, some have complained that the forms don’t go far enough in revealing the responses students wrote about their professors.
“The reason we can’t publish any responses to open-ended questions is because of [the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act], which is a federal law,” said Peter Jones, the senior vice provost of undergraduate studies. “If a student in your class were to say something offensive about you and we put that on a website, that’s a violation of your FERPA rights. We would have to go through every single response, redact each comment that we thought was potentially damaging to a faculty member or to another student. We can’t do that – there are literally tens of thousands of student responses.”
Still, some students said the questions are not specific enough to suit each professor. Gerald Karasinski, a junior accounting major and teaching assistant at the Fox School of Business, offered some suggestions to improve the e-SFFs.
“Those questions on there, who are they helping?” he said. “I understand you can’t have open-ended questions, but at least have more multiple-choice questions.”
Incentivizing students to even complete the forms may present greater challenges, some students said.
“I don’t know that even with these electronic surveys, that kids are going to even bother using them,” junior athletic training major Justin Pilieri said. “I know back in the past when you did it by paper, you were forced to do it, so I don’t know if people are going to have the initiative to do it now.”
Justin Dowdall, a senior communication studies major said grades ultimately play a role in how students fill out these forms, skewing the data even further.
“We must ask ourselves are the best teachers, in that I mean the ones that make us better, going to get good evaluations?” Dowdall said. “Or, will the easy teachers be rewarded for handing out A’s and candy?”
All incoming freshmen and transfer students will be given automatic access to the data, and returning students who completed all their spring semester e-SFF forms will eligible to look at the data. Students who didn’t complete the forms in spring but did so for summer classes will also be given access, Jones said.
Officials said getting the word out about e-SFFs is imperative.
“I’d guess this is something students still need to hear about and learn to use,” Bartholomew said. “I’m sure the majority are still using services like [RateMyProfessors.com], but as more and more students learn about [e-SFFs], more and more will use the Temple product and it’ll become more widely adopted.”
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