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Students to rate courses, Instructors

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NAIT is piloting an online survey that will allow students the opportunity to give campus-wide feedback on their instructors. The goal is to have the survey fully implemented by early 2019.

“Students have been asking for a number of years, and rightly so, for a more consistent institute-wide opportunity to provide feedback on every single course and every instructor on the credit side,” said NAIT VP Academic Dr. Susan Fitzsimmons.

Questions will be the same for every student in every program, making the survey standard across NAIT. Niki Anderson, director of Strategic Initiatives and her team are leading the way in streamlining student feedback.

“We know that there are programs and areas that are doing student surveys but currently they are asking different questions and the information is going different places,” said Anderson. “So the broad goal is that NAIT, from all credit programs, consistently knows how the students are feeling about the programs.”

Anderson’s team is working with NAIT’s Learning and Teaching Commons and the institutional research department in collecting data from other post-secondary surveys in Alberta.

“Basically, we’ve designed what we think are the best questions. But part of the pilot will be vetting them past the instructors, past their mentors, and past the students as well.”

The student feedback will go directly to that instructor and their program chair after final grades have been posted. This is meant to get the best responses from students who may feel uncomfortable if it were released while the class was in session.

“The reason we are providing it after grades is because the flip side of wanting to give feedback is students also want to feel safe giving feedback,” said Fitzsimmons. “Now of course, because it’s electronic there isn’t a way to trace it back to the students but there is always that fear that if I write this comment about a certain someone or a certain situation, that somehow the instructor might guess it was from me. We do everything we can to protect that anonymity but students are still worried sometimes.”

Since NAIT is a polytechnic, it isn’t easy to accommodate the many differing schedules.

“I think when we looked there was hundreds and hundreds [of students] within a semester of different start and end dates, so there was a lot of what some would call ‘the boring work,’” continued Niki Anderson. “You know, figuring out how are the instructors going to know that it’s time, how, as NAIT, will we know if the surveys were deployed … so a lot of the background work has been understanding the data we have and seeing how accurate it is.”

NAIT piloted a similar paper survey two years ago with limited success when Anderson was director of Engagement. They are hoping to learn from that experience this time around.

“A lot of that information and data should not have changed over the past two years but doing a paper survey was cumbersome. As a technology institute it just didn’t make sense using a paper survey, so a large part of the wait has been developing the technology.”

Most post-secondary schools in Alberta are already do something similar. Fitzsimmons thinks it’s NAIT turn to do the same.

“I think it’s important for students to have that voice,” said Fitzsimmons. “We believe the quality of teaching here is very high but we don’t have great data to show that at the moment.”

The implementation process will begin in the fall semester of 2018 with the goal of having it up and running by the winter term next year.

– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor

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