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Professor ratings going online

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The University of Calgary is looking at adapting the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction into an electronic format. Instead of using class time to rate the performance of their professors, students would complete the questionnaires online. Before moving entirely to an online system, however, the university is running a pilot project.

"We've been working with a university committee since Sept- ember and will launch a pilot project between the 15th and 30th of this month," said Students' Union Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides.

Nicolaides says the project will be conducted with 160 randomly selected courses across campus, representing 10 percent of all courses offered at the U of C.

This plan grew out of a review conducted last year, which found that many students and faculty saw the URSI as a waste of class time.

"There is also a lot of support staff time taken up in scheduling the administration and actually going to classes to distribute and collect the instruments," said U of C Associate VP Academic Dr. Robert Woodrow. "For several years, the USRI implement- ation group has periodically received requests to provide for online administration. This has come from students, professors and from USRI administrators."

Third-year student Brennen Jones is not sure the change is good.

"It would probably mean that I wouldn't do [the USRI], because I would forget," said Jones. "Having to do them in class kind of forces me to do it."

'"Before we could consider moving to online administration of the USRI on a large scale, we will have to be confident that the results obtained online would be as reliable and informative as with the current class administered surveys," said Dr. Woodrow.

Aside from low participation, Nicolaides sees few barriers.

"The information will be the same, analyzed in the same way, entered in the same places," said Nicolaides. "It will all be exactly the same except that you will do it online."

Some have raised concerns about the security of students' information. U of C IT representative Gordon McDonald explained student identification numbers will only be used to verify the student taking the survey is part of the class and has not already filled out a survey. This means an online USRI may be more secure than the bubblesheet, which contain ID numbers and recognizable handwriting.

Ultimately, the trial will determine the feasibility of online USRI.

"We hope to find out whether an electronic mode of administration can provide the input faculty, administrators and students require from the USRI, and in a manner which is more convenient and efficient," said Dr. Woodrow.

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