Course Evaluations Online

Until this year, students who wanted to know more about a course before registering had only word of mouth or the departmental file cabinets that housed hard copies of course evaluations to rely on. Now, for more than 750 courses, they have their peers.

Student ratings of professors and courses in the College of Arts and Sciences have been available on the Student Association Web site since Oct. 26. The site allows students to view responses to questions 9 and 10 of the UBCATS, pencil-and-paper evaluations students complete at the conclusion of each semester.

The questions ask a student to rate each course on a five-point scale, from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree" whether "I would recommend this course to other students" and if "I would recommend this instructor to other students."

Answers to the rest of the survey were not made public because, said SA President Christian Oliver, UB does not have a standard evaluation form. Oliver said the provost's office is attempting to make the two questions mandatory for future semesters.

The average score for question nine for the spring 2001 semester was 4.02; question 10 returned a 4.18 average.

Putting course evaluations online was a major platform issue for the Results Party, to which all three SA executive board members belong, during last spring's SA elections.

"Hopefully [the evaluations] will weed out bad professors," said Oliver.

Kahlil Hill, a sophomore theater major, believes access to the online evaluations will increase student interest in academics.

"Students will be more receptive to teachers who [the students know] have a more positive influence to their class," said Hill.

Although SA has posted flyers, placed ads in its Visions magazine, and advertised the evaluations on their Web site, the site has received less than 800 hits and is still relatively unknown among the student body.

"If students don't know [of the evaluations], then they will have no effect on registration," said Blandine Regis, a nursing and health sciences major, who said she would have found the evaluations useful had she known of their existence prior to registration.

Currently, evaluations of approximately three-fourths of CAS courses are available online. Oliver said this was due to the college's "approachability," and noted he will be meeting with other university administrators to work on including evaluations from other schools in the site.

"We're very happy and very pleased with the way the Web site is displayed ... but by no means is this finished," said Oliver. This is just a sampling."

Course evaluations can be viewed on the SA Web site,