For the first time, many students will fill out end-of-semester course reviews online, rather than by hand. While the survey itself is not changing, the means and timing of distribution are. For this semester, all tenured faculty will be using the online forms and by next semester the entire school will utilize the online forms. 

Professors using online forms will still have two weeks before classes end to distribute the surveys. Students can start and finish the surveys entirely in class, as they did using the handwritten forms, or they can choose to do them completely on their own time outside of class. Professors can also have students start the surveys in class and finish them outside of class. 

There are a number of reasons for the change, which has been discussed since 2006. Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd said that the online forms will be environmentally friendlier, provide greater flexibility for both students and professors, and allow for an even greater degree of anonymity for students. 

Last fall, the College piloted the program with seven tenured professors across 12 courses. 
“We did a survey of all the students who participated in the pilot and the student response was uniformly positive,” Judd said. “The comments—the qualitative part—was greater on the online forms than the paper form.” 

The survey revealed that students felt that they were able to give more complete and more thoughtful answers on course evaluations, since they had the flexibility to do the surveys whenever they wanted.

“People said it was at least the same as doing it in class and many cited many of the advantages we found, including their ability to do it with a clear head,” Judd said. 

There is a drawback to the online form, however. 

“Faculty are nervous,” said Judd.

Now that students have the option to do them outside of class there is the added risk that students will not take the surveys. 

“Students will get reminders about completing the forms and a clear sense of when the deadlines for completing those forms are, but it’s important that they do them,” said Judd.

She added, “We really value and depend on student feedback to help us continuously improve the teaching at Bowdoin and continuously improve the experience.”