UTSA to give away iPads to promote new online course evaluations

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(Nov. 22, 2010, 10:00 a.m.)--NOTE: End-of-course evaluation notices are being e-mailed to students -- one for each course in which they are enrolled. As of 9 a.m., Monday, Nov. 22, server problems are delaying delivery of the e-mail messages.

The UTSA Office of Information Technology is working to resolve the problem, and students will receive all of the necessary messages as soon as possible. Because of the delay, the deadline for completing course evaluations has been extended to Tuesday, Dec. 7.

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UTSA will give away up to four iPads as part of the university's launch of the new online course evaluations. Beginning fall 2010, end-of-semester course evaluations will be conducted online, completely replacing the paper-based IDEA surveys previously used.

"In addition to many other benefits, the university is realizing a significant cost savings by switching from paper to online evaluations," said Sandra Welch, vice provost for accountability and institutional effectiveness. "We're using just a small portion of that savings to offer iPads as prize incentives to students who complete their evaluations."

Welch said the number of iPads given away will depend on student participation. Two iPads will be awarded if 40 percent of UTSA students complete their online evaluations; three iPads will be awarded if 50 percent complete their evaluations; and four iPads will be awarded if at least 60 percent do so. That means that the more class evaluations students complete, the more chances they will have to win.

"Online course evaluations offer a number of benefits to UTSA, not the least of which is time savings," said John Frederick, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Instructors no longer have to use valuable class time to administer course evaluations, as students will be able to complete them online at their convenience. Also, because of this new, automated process, results of evaluations will be available to faculty by the beginning of the next semester."

The online course evaluations also help the university comply with Texas H.B. 2504, which requires certain evaluation results and other data to be posted online. At UTSA, that information is posted on the Bluebook website.

And just like the paper surveys, online course evaluations are anonymous.

"We've worked to ensure that the online survey mechanism is completely confidential," said Ken Pierce, vice provost for information technology and CIO. "Students will receive an e-mail with a link to the evaluation for each course they are enrolled in. Once a student submits their evaluation online, the answers are stored in a separate database, so, there's no way to link a student to her or his responses."

Informational videos explaining online course evaluations will be available on the desktop of every classroom computer beginning Nov. 18. Frederick urges faculty members to show the videos to their students.

"We are asking faculty to take a few minutes in class to talk to students about why it's important to complete their evaluations," Frederick said. "Students need to understand that their feedback can help our faculty improve their course content and instruction."