University of Wisconsin




April 28, 2008


To:       Carmen Wilson, Faculty Senate Chair


From:  Department of Economics


Re:      Request to move Student Evaluation of Instruction online


The Department of Economics requests that the Faculty Senate move the SEI from its current format to a web based system.


The current format of collecting SEI data requires that each instructor administer the SEI instrument in each class taught on campus.  In order to comply with the recently passed Faculty Senate SEI administration and reporting procedures, instructors are not to be present in the room when the SEI is administered, meaning that each instructor (or department designee) must arrange for somebody else to administer each SEI (we note that this practice is common in many departments already).


There are several issues we would like to address in regard to this proposal.

  1. Web based student evaluations are not novel.  They are currently being conducted at several universities. 
  2. Empirical evidence from those universities using web based SEIs indicates that the response rate is actually higher than the in-class versions we administer.  Currently, if a student misses a class s/he does not fill out an evaluation form.  By using a web based system, students would have a predetermined period of time to complete the SEI.  The time period for SEIs could be determined at the university, college, or department level.
  3. Migrating to a web based SEI would dramatically reduce the amount of paper we generate to conduct these evaluations.  This is a nontrivial issue both in regard to cost and the environment, especially in light of the recently passed student initiative to assess themselves a fee to promote a green campus.  It is environmentally responsible of us to reduce the use of paper where possible.
  4. The amount of time that is dedicated to administering and then running the results of the SEIs is enormous.  By going to a web based version no time is taken out of class, no time is necessary to organize and collect the SEI forms and responses, and no time is needed to run the scantron sheets to generate the data.  In addition, the results would be immediately available in electronic format to all who need them.  In the spring semester of 2008 there are 3065 sections of classes offered at UW-L.  If only ten minutes of time is spent in each section it amounts to more than 500 hours devoted to SEIs.  In other words, we spend the equivalent of more than 26 entire semester-length classes simply administering the SEIs each year.  In addition, time is needed by departmental employees (ADAs, student workers, faculty, etc.) to prepare the SEI packets, arrange for proctors for each course section, gather and organize the completed scantron forms, forward them for conversion to digital analysis, retrieve them and then summarize the results.  In the department of Economics this process takes an average of 30 hours per semester, or an average of 43 minutes per section.  If the average per section across the university is only 40 minutes, then it takes more than 4000 hours per academic year to prepare for and collect the SEI data.  This is the equivalent of two full time positions.  Note that this does not include the time and cost it takes to process the scantron forms.
  5. Security should not be an issue.  Secure websites that allow only registered students to cast only one SEI vote can easily be created.  We could encourage student participation by repeated email reminders during the SEI period.  This method is used at some institutions.
  6. Converting to a web based system will require an initial setup cost in terms of time and beta testing.  Beyond that, the costs of maintaining the system should be low. 


The long run impact of a web based system would be greater access to the SEI by students, lower costs of administering SEIs for the university, easier access to SEI information for all end users, and a reduction in the use of materials and energy thereby promoting environmental responsibility.  In sum the potential gains are significant and it is time for UW-L to move SEIs online.