Recent Change to Online-Based Forms a Cause
By Briana DelBuono
Data shows that CSI is seeing a significant decrease in email submissions for end of semester teacher evaluations by students.
Interim Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, Dr. Syed Rizvi, who has been working at the College of Staten Island since 1996, believes this is happening because students are not frequently using their CSI emails and therefore becoming locked out over a period of time.
“The accounts deactivate if students are inactive for 90 days” Dr. Rizvi said. “The problem occurs when we have a large number of accounts deactivated during the two week window, leaving many students without enough time to fix their accounts when the end of the semester grows near.”
This is a growing problem for students and the evaluations are suffering because of it. “I haven’t logged into my CSI email all semester,” a student of CSI expressed. This is the case for many students at the college.
The evaluations can be done anytime within the two-week window before the end of the semester. “We encourage the students to use their CSI email account periodically especially during the two week window. We are working with OIT [Office of Information Technology] to resolve these issues. We want to unfreeze the frozen accounts beforehand,” Dr. Rizvi stated.
The evaluations were traditionally done on paper until a year ago, and was changed because of an initiative to go green and foster convenience. The college has decided to switch to an online, email-based medium.
“Everything’s online because that’s the advantage of modern technology. It saves time, saves paper, and helps us become more efficient and productive,” the Interim Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness said.
With the introduction of this new way to write up evaluations, it gives students more privacy and leniency in terms of when and how they wish to complete their evaluations.
“It gives them more flexibility. We give them a two-week window to complete the evaluations. They can do it day or night, 24/7,” he said.
Because of the issues with logging onto the college’s email services, the number of evaluations being completed is lower than normal. “In Fall 2014, only 42 percent of students completed the evaluations as opposed to 60-65 percent when the evaluations were still being done on paper,” Dr. Rizvi stated.
This has become problematic because evaluations are very important to the college and affect both the students and professors in the long run. “We want students to complete the evaluations so we can see how the professors are doing” he said.
“We use evaluations for key decisions about instructors. Your feedback is taken very seriously. We use them regularly in regards to appointments and promotions and everything. It’s not like you complete the evaluations and nobody looks at them,” Dr. Rizvi explained.
Dr. Rizvi is also a professor at the College of Staten Island and sees the feedback as an effective way to see if he is reaching all of his learning objectives within his courses. “If I am teaching a class, I would like to know whether the students are learning what I’m trying to teach them and what areas I can improve in,” he said.
The college is aiming to introduce a pilot in which tablets would be provided in all classrooms and students would be able to take 15-20 minutes of class time to complete the evaluations online. This way, professors would be able to ensure that they are getting done, even though they are not mandatory.
“It would be just like the old system except now with tablets. We really do value your feedback. That would be a pilot that we plan to run next semester. I will be thrilled if we can do this for Spring, but if not than definitely for the Fall semester,” Dr. Rizvi explained.
As an incentive to complete the surveys, last spring the college held a campaign called “Make Your Voice Heard” in which students who completed their evaluations were entered into a drawing where they could win either an iPad, the first prize, or a $50 Amazon gift card.
Eleven people were able to win. “This gives the students incentive. The main thing is, it’s a matter of telling a professor that they did or did not do a good job and if the course was helpful to them,” he said.
“If you don’t tell us how we are doing, we don’t have an opportunity to improve. At the same time, if someone is doing a good job, students are able to tell him or her that he or she is doing well. I cannot overemphasize how important the evaluations are.”