How are online courses evaluated?

Online courses are evaluated by the same methods as face-to-face courses and in a variety of ways.  Some instructors select the online course as one that they will have the SAI administered for – but for full-time faculty, this choice is at the faculty member’s discretion.  Adjunct faculty have their online section evaluated every semester.  Two SAI forms are available for use in online courses.  One is the traditional set of questions in the SAI, that most faculty who have offered an opinion believe has limited or no utility for the online course.  During the 2007-08 academic year, the Advancing Online Task Force produced an alternative form that could either be substituted for the SAI for those who were not required to have the SAI for their annual faculty evaluation process or as a supplement (additional questions that could be inserted before the traditional SAI). 

Many faculty are using the new form that is offered online, but student response rates have been extremely low.  Response rates improve when faculty members associate points or other credit with completion of the form, yet some are reluctant to link points to completion of the form.  More effort must be directed here to increase response rates.

In most semesters, there is an online course survey formerly conducted through CPTS (the former UCEL) and now being administered by Institutional Research where students are asked a variety of questions about their satisfaction with their online student services, the effectiveness of online instruction, and their beliefs about the quality of their learning experience.  Results from these surveys are available for the past several years.  Because a similar form is not administered for face-to-face sections, we are presently unable to compare the relative effectiveness of online sections with face-to-face sections. 

The best evaluation of the quality of online courses is to assess the extent to which intended learning outcomes have been met.  To date, there is limited information available about what, how much, and how well students have learned in either the face-to-face or online sections.  As TracDat is more fully implemented and as the University approaches its reaccreditation visit in 2010-11, we anticipate that additional perspective on the relative learning success of students will be available for analysis.  In February 2009, Colleges can add the courses to the TracDat database and we urge those programs with both face-to-face and online options to begin to report on comparative success rates on learning outcomes.