Senators hear about electronic class evaluation system

An electronic class evaluation system piloted in the fall of 2010 is in widespread use on campus today.  Sixty-eight percent of academic departments are using the Campus Climate system for class evaluation, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) director Ann Marie VanDerZanden told the Faculty Senate during its April 17 meeting.

"Yesterday, alone, we had 15,369 students attempting to complete an online course evaluation survey," she said.

In a report to the senate, VanDerZanden said the Campus Climate system was the result of interest among some colleges, departments and the provost's office in an electronic class evaluation system.

The fall 2010 pilot of the Class Climate software involved four colleges, 34 departments and some 8,300 students in 468 unique course sections. VanDerZanden said the Class Climate pilot:

  • Yielded a 75 percent response rate among students
  • Cost about 79 cents per student (software costs)
  • Required less staff time to administer than traditional paper evaluations

Representatives from every college, academic affairs and students affairs studied the results of that pilot. Subsequently, a recommendation to senior leadership proposed that the university move forward with Class Climate, VanDerZanden said.

By November 2011, 108 academic departments and other programs such as Engineering Student Services and CELT were using Class Climate.  

Class Climate response rates (percentages)

Fall 2011 65.5
Summer 2011 60.0
Spring 2011 74.4

Paper vs. electronic

While endorsing the value of class evaluation, several senators were skeptical of the electronic version. Traditionally, students have filled out paper evaluations during class time.  Some senators said they believe the in-class paper system lends itself to more thoughtful evaluations than those that can be done online virtually anytime and anywhere.

One senator bluntly said she's found students to be "mean" in electronic evaluations, something she attributes to the culture of online commenting.

VanDerZanden replied that instructors can require that Class Climate evaluations be done in class. The process requires instructors to get a password that is provided to students during class.

Student-athlete academics

Faculty athletics representative Tim Day presented senators with an annual academic report card on Cyclone student-athletes. For the fifth consecutive semester, Iowa State's student-athletes out-performed the general student body, earning cumulative grade points of 2.94 and 2.90 in the 2011 spring and fall semesters, respectively. That's just slightly better than the grade-gradepoint average of all students, which was 2.91 for spring and 2.88 for fall.

The six-year graduation rate for student-athletes dropped to 58 percent last fall, down from 64 percent in 2010. By comparison, the graduation rate for all students was 60 percent this fall.

For the second consecutive year, all of Iowa State's athletics teams cleared the NCAA's academic progress rate benchmark (925). Programs that fall below the minimum number on the retention and academic eligibility matrix are penalized. The Cyclone softball team led six programs (women's basketball, men's and women's golf, swimming, gymnastics and volleyball) that rated 990 or higher in 2011.

New academic programs

Senators approved an undergraduate wind energy minor that will be administered by an interdisciplinary group from departments within the Engineering; Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Agriculture and Life Sciences colleges. The minor is aimed at students majoring in engineering or meteorology.

Three master's degree programs also were approved, including:

  • A master of design in sustainable environments, an interdisciplinary program in the College of Design. It is targeted toward students with professional degrees in art, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, industrial design, planning or engineering.
  • A master of urban design, an interdisciplinary program in the College of Design. Intended for students with degrees in architecture, landscape architecture or city planning; or students with professional design experience.
  • A master of engineering in engineering management, offered through distance education by the department of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

Catalog policies

Three proposals for the academic catalog from the senate's academic standards and admissions committee were approved as part of the consent agenda. The changes include:

  • Increasing the drop limit from two to four courses for undergraduates
  • Converting undergraduate non-report (NR) marks to F grades after one year or upon graduation, rather than removing them from student records
  • Allowing students to repeat pass/not pass courses on a graded basis