New online course evaluations are giving students more of a voice. “In the old [paper] forms, written responses were frequently one or two words—‘really good’ or ‘not great’,” says registrar Roger Printup. “In the online responses, complete sentences are being used, and I think people are taking a bit longer to complete each evaluation.”

No more shuffling, and sometimes losing, tens of thousands of pieces of paper each quarter. And no more shipping evaluations back and forth to Los Angeles to be scanned and sorted.

The system was piloted last winter with 20 departments, and evaluations for all courses in the schools of Education, Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences took a virtual leap in fall quarter. Those who evaluated their courses by December 17 were able to see their grades on December 22 instead of January 2.

“I don’t know whether to characterize withholding grades as a carrot or a stick,” Printup says. But the nearly 90 percent response rate, he adds, “pleased me beyond words.”

Course evaluations often are used by departments and deans to evaluate faculty members as well as new and existing courses. “There’s always a concern about letting students have input into what goes on, and this is one way, from the University’s perspective, that we can collect information on student opinion about the courses and the faculty teaching them,” Printup says.