UTSA plans to introduce online surveys Fall 2010

Starting Fall 2010, UTSA will implement the end-of-the-semester course surveys online to satisfy the requirements of a new bill passed by the Texas legislature last spring, requiring colleges to publically post student survey results online. The new surveys will replace the printed IDEA surveys currently in use and will be created and administered internally.

The survey will involve two to four questions to be used university-wide. Each college, department and professor may add a number of questions tailored to their particular discipline and course.

The current surveys, conducted through the IDEA center, are considerably unpopular with students and faculty alike. The new surveys, however, are not free of problems, with potential issues such as student participation and survey anonymity, being considered. Administrators at the Office of the Provost, as well as the Faculty Senate, are determining ways to eliminate these issues before the new surveys are piloted this summer.

The most significant concern is student participation. “Students don’t realize how important those evaluations are in the hiring and firing of faculty. The power students have in the process is very real,” Mansour El-Kikhia, faculty senate president, said.

To maximize student participation, university officials and faculty senate have discussed a variety of incentives. “We were considering giving bonus points for participating, but decided the results would be too uneven and it wouldn’t be a good way to go,” Dr. John Frederick, the provost and vice president of academic affairs, said. “We’re looking at making it so that the students who do the survey will get earlier access to their grades.”

The survey results also have a considerable effect on professors’ tenure, raises and promotions. “The surveys are used in the annual evaluation process but only about 30 percent of their evaluation is based on the survey results,” Frederick said, explaining the statistical measures used to determine instructor ability.

The new law also dictates that other useful tools be available to the public. “This law requiring us to post the survey results online requires us to post other information such as syllabi, which we are working out ways to post during the registration period, and also faculty resumes, so students will be able to see faculty qualifications for themselves,” Frederick said.

With this information being made public next semester, officials at UTSA are hoping students and parents will take advantage of the opportunities to judge for themselves the caliber of the university’s curriculum with the ratings and qualifications of the faculty.

“This makes it very easy for us to actually tailor classes to students. We would very much like for every college to tailor the questions for every class so the instructors will have better input for their own individual class,” El-Kikhia said.