Evaluating individual courses is vitally important for the University. They allow us to:
- hear what students think about the courses delivered by the University;
- understand what students like and don’t like in what we provide;
- identify good practice worthy of dissemination elsewhere;
- help us to improve our teaching provision.
For course coordinators it provides a mechanism for reflection on their course, to consider the impact of any changes made in previous years, or what changes could be made in future years to improve their course. This feeds into the Annual Course Review (ACR) that each course coordinator is required to complete at the conclusion of their course. For students, it is important for showing them that they have a voice and that we take their opinion on the courses they are taking seriously. One way to gather feedback from students on our courses is through questionnaires and the University has devised a process that all course organisers must adopt in order to gain student feedback. This is the Course Feedback Form.
The Course Feedback Form:
The Course Feedback Form has been devised to capture enough information on each course for the course coordinator to get an overview of how well their course has been received by students and to highlight any areas of good practice and any areas for improvement. The form could therefore be used as it is however it is acknowledged that some course coordinators may want to ask specific questions, e.g. to get feedback from a specific initiative. Course coordinators are, therefore, free to amend the form as they wish as long as the questions asked would still allow them to identify what students liked/did not like about the course.
When should they be completed?
Students should be asked to complete the form online. It is good practice to set some time aside to enable students to fill in the form in class to maximise the percentage return. The timing of when the forms are made available to students is entirely up to the course coordinator although asking for them to be completed towards the end of the course means students will be able to evaluate the whole course and not just part of it. Whenever the forms are available for students to complete, the course coordinator should ensure students are fully informed of the objectives of the feedback process. It might be useful to explain the process of course review to give context to why we ask students to complete a Course Feedback Form and explain how the outcome of the course review exercise will be communicated back to students.
Closing the Feedback Loop:
The outcomes of the course review process will be formally discussed at the next Staff-Student Liaison Committee (usually in the next half session). There are two types of feedback which should be relayed back to students at SSLCs: (i) issues identified from the Course Feedback Forms (ii) any action taken as a result of the survey. However, as any issues discussed at SSLC do not necessarily feedback to the relevant cohort of students, it is good practice to feedback to the current cohort of students prior to the end of the course. This might involve a quick scan of comments to identify any recurring issues and then giving the class some feedback at the end of course lecture or via MyAberdeen.
The ACR (which would be based, in part, on comments from the Course Feedback Form) should be posted onto the MyAberdeen site for the course so it is available for all students on the course to view and, in addition, minutes of SSLCs should be posted on the MyAberdeen SSLC site. At the start of a course it is good practice to identify to the new class what areas of good practice or areas for development were highlighted in the previous years’ Course Feedback Form and what has been changed in the current course to address these – or explain why they cannot be changed. This shows students that even though their feedback may not be given until the end of the course their feedback is valued and does result in change.
Other ways of obtaining feedback:
Whilst the expected, and minimum, methods for Schools to gather student feedback are the Course Feedback Form and SSLC, Schools are encouraged to consider different and innovative methods to give students the opportunity to provide feedback. Other forms of feedback can be derived from in-lecture questionnaires (using Ombea for instance), from discussion groups on MyAberdeen or during lab classes or field trips. The use of focus groups or mid-course questionnaires can be a useful means to identify any issues which could be acted upon before the course ends. Course coordinators should, however, be mindful of the problem of survey fatigue which means that over-use of mid-course questionnaires by the course coordinator and class reps might limit the number of respondents to the official Course Feedback Form. It is therefore recommended that if a mid-course questionnaire is required, Course Coordinators should work with Class Reps to devise a questionnaire suitable for both needs. Any mechanism of obtaining feedback is appropriate but all course coordinators must use the Course Feedback Form at least once during their course.
What happens to the Course Feedback Form data?
The data derived from Course Feedback Forms are purely for enhancement. Access to the results from these surveys is controlled by the person who authors the form (which should be the course coordinator). At a minimum the Course Feedback Form data should be shared with the course teaching team (where relevant) and programme leaders or School Directors of Teaching as they are responsible for completing Annual Programme Reviews (APRs), which are based in part on data from the Course Feedback Forms. Staff interested in applying for promotion, especially on the Learning, Teaching and Scholarship track, may also want to share the Course Feedback Form data with their line manager.
Roles and responsibilities in relation to course evaluation:
- The course coordinator:
is the author and owner of their Course Feedback Form;
decides the questions to be asked (if different from those recommended);
decides when the form is issued to students;
decides who the form is fed back to (though in accordance with School policy);
uses the data to complete an ACR.
- The School Admin officer:
works with individual course coordinators to help them author their Course Feedback Form;
reminds/promotes the requirement for Course Feedback Forms to be made available to students before the end of the course;
uploads completed Course Feedback Form analysis reports to the School QAC-Planning SharePoint site.
- Programme leader/School Director of Teaching:
takes an overview of all Course Feedback Form analysis reports to identify areas of good practice or areas of concern for discussion at SSLC meetings and School Teaching & Learning Committee meetings;
uses the data from the Course Feedback Forms and associated ACRs to complete their APR;
offers support for staff if any areas of weakness are identified in relation to the teaching or course organisation.