If the Registrar’s Office in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) gave a grade for student participation in course evaluations, it likely would be an A+, since 96 percent of undergraduates submitted course evaluations, or Q evaluations, at the end of the fall term.
The response rate is a marked increase over a few years ago, when it hovered at 65 to 70 percent. The growth results partly from the transition of several course evaluation processes from paper forms to online only.
At one time, course evaluations were only on paper and filled out during the last class meeting. At first when course evaluations moved online — meaning that students were no longer a captive audience — response rates dropped. This year, the Registrar’s Office addressed that problem by letting undergraduates receive course grades online a few weeks earlier, but only if they filled out the course evaluations. With this option, participation rose.
“We thought that this would help our response rate, but it exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Barry Kane, FAS registrar. “These response rates are unheard of. I don’t think that that there is a school in the country that’s getting this kind of response.”
The information within, and accessibility of, the online Q also has been augmented this year. As recently as two years ago, course evaluations were published in the “Q Guide,” a 1,000-plus-page book edited by Harvard College students. Jointly implemented by the Registrar’s Office and FAS Information Technology (FAS IT), the new Harvard Q is now integrated into the course planning feature of my.harvard.edu.
The online Q offers several key advantages over the book: Students can compare the Q scores of several courses side by side, and can also read other students’ complete answers to open-ended questions posed in the evaluation, which were not published in the book.
“We tried to help them have a snapshot of what their peers think about a faculty member or a course,” said Katie Vale, director of academic technology with FAS IT. “We don’t want students to pick courses solely on the popularity, but if you are vacillating between two courses, it is useful for students to know what courses many of their peers recommend. “
All courses offered by Harvard College are subject to student evaluation in the Q, and faculty members often integrate the feedback they receive into their subsequent teaching.
Beyond the Q evaluations, many other new online applications for students make registering and planning for courses easier. The Registrar’s Office and the Advising Programs Office recently developed a tool to help students map out their course schedules for their entire four years at Harvard, allowing students to plan how they will fill their concentration and General Education requirements.
Term registration, course enrollment, class lists, transcript requests, directory updates, and placement exams have all been moved online in the past couple of years. According to Kane, additional registry processes are slated to move online in the coming year.
To go directly to an online course evaluation, visit this link.