In Higher Education today, a lot of emphasis has been put on student satisfaction and student critiques of a university’s courses and teaching faculty. Student input is certainly a very important part of maintaining an eye on how well a university is doing at meeting its mission, and how well faculty are doing in the mentoring process. Atlantic University has always been very concerned about the kind of experience its students are having. Our faculty members are mentors in the truest sense of the word, guiding students through academic and experiential territory. We hope that we are all giving students not only the context in which they can become expert in the content their mentors provide, but also a context in which they can seek and discover deep truths about themselves and their places in the world.
Every year we provide our accrediting agency with an annual report. They are not only sticklers on how well we are living up to their business and student services standards and policies, but they also care a great deal about well are students are faring under our care. Putting the report together is a great exercise in understanding ourselves as an institution, and in getting in touch in a serious way with what our students need and feel.
Part of the data gathering we do for that report centers on the course evaluations we make available to our students as they complete their courses. In the past we used to give our students a link to a course evaluation form that asks the students to rate aspects of the course they have just finished, from its contents to its overall value. We also ask questions about the promptness of the feedback they obtain from their faculty mentors, about their overall satisfaction with the school, and whether or not their goals are being met. Recently we have started to ask students to estimate how many hours they spend on their courses, including hours in the online classroom, answering discussion posts and reading mentor’s comments, hours watching videos or movies or listening to audios assigned in the course, hours spent reading, and finally time spent writing discussion posts, short essays and longer papers. Because we design our courses to meet the Department of Education’s credit hour rule (135 student activity hours overall per 3 credit course), we are very serious about getting this estimate. Using the estimate we can determine whether a course is “light” and needs to be beefed up to meet the credit hour rule, or whether a class has way too much going on to be a good learning experience.
When we gave our students a link to a course evaluation document, we found that a large number of students didn’t fill out their forms. Getting a good size response rate from college students — even graduate students like ours — can be a difficult task. Similar to what other schools have done, our solution was to put the course evaluation online, and to have faculty emphasize to the students that course requirements could not be considered “done” until they had completed an evaluation form. Faculty also let students know that we are very serious about our course evaluations and that our goal is to really “hear” what the students are saying.
This past Spring semester, most of the students completed the online course evaluation. The rest, after running into one of the rare technological hiccups from our survey site, completed the alternate form of the evaluation, our “old-timey” course evaluation document. We about doubled our overall response rate from previous semesters, and netted a 92% response rate. That was a big “woo hoo” moment for us!
This table shows you the summary stats we are now listing on our consumer disclosure form.
|Overall Results Spring 2012 Course Evaluations Ratings|
|Rating Scale = 1 (least helpful) to 5 (most helpful)|
|Value of Course||4.6|
|Hours per week||11.5|
|Yes I got prompt feedback||94%|
|Yes I would recommend the course||100%|
|Yes the course met my goals||99%|
|Yes I would recommend AU||100%|
One of the things we took away from that chart is that we need to do a better job with our audio/visual materials. One of the things we’ve done to help with that is set up some professional development courses for our faculty on using educational technology. Another is that we’re moving to a new learning management system soon that will give us a lot more flexibility in what types of things we can use. We have also started filming lectures developed by close-by faculty mentors for use in their classes. Another lesson we’ve taken from the summary stats is that we need to rethink some of our textbooks and materials, and as we review our classes, or revamp them for the new learning management system, we’re taking that stat into consideration too.
We were really happy with the satisfaction percentages and also with the rating of our mentor’s comments. Anyone who has taken an online course knows that a great mentor can make the difference in a student’s experience. Many of our students also wrote open-ended comments on the course and their mentor and a lot of them had wonderful things to say about the attentiveness of our faculty and their willingness to be as involved in the student’s experience as the student needed them to be. We think our faculty are really great mentors, of course. Still it’s just wonderful to hear some of the students confirm that.
Our students also had some great suggestions for the courses, for materials, the course structure and so on. And that was really useful feedback too.
Anyhow, I thought I’d pass on these recent results to all of you, not only because I’m proud of the job that Atlantic University does and of the wonderful way in which our students step up to the plate in their classes, giving of themselves, and creating a community of good-hearted, mindful scholars, but also because the stats confirm my impression that Atlantic University is blessed with a terrific faculty. And I would like to say a resounding and public congratulations to all of them on a job well done!
For more information on our Faculty Mentors and Faculty Fellows, you can click here to travel to the Faculty page on the Atlantic University website. Thanks for listening!