Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Course Evaluations

Course evaluations are one of the most important tools for instructors to monitor student feedback for teaching effectiveness. The Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences administers end-of-term online course evaluations for all undergraduate courses in the Arts and Sciences, as well as some graduate-level courses. The online evaluations are conducted through the course management system CourseWorks.

Below is detailed information about the course evaluations:

Each set of instructions can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

To select an evaluation form for a course

To add course specific questions to the evaluation form

To confirm instructor and TA information

To confirm/edit course roster (e.g. adding TA)

To add an Administrative or Staff Assistant with TA or instructor privileges

To email nonrespondents during the evaluation period

To limit access to the gradebook during the evaluation period

To access evaluation results for current courses

To access evaluation results for past courses

To select an evaluation form for a course:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • This will bring you to the list of available forms
  • Click on the evaluation title to view the form
  • Once you have viewed the forms, select the appropriate evaluation form by clicking on the corresponding radio button and then clicking “Select Evaluation”

To add course specific questions to the evaluation form:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • Click on the Evaluation Title (this is the evaluation that you had previously selected)
  • Add course specific questions to the bottom of the evaluation
  • Select type of question (Multiple Choice, Yes/No, Short Answer, Long Answer)

Note for selecting multiple choice questions: You will have to choose a rating scale for your multiple choice questions. Although several different scales are available, one scale needs to be selected for all multiple choice questions added by the instructor. In other words, all instructor-added multiple choice questions will have to be tailored to the same scale. You can, of course, combine multiple choice questions with yes/no, true/false, short, and long answer questions.

To confirm instructor and TA information:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • Click on the Evaluation Title (this is the evaluation you had previously selected)
  • If you select the drop-down option for instructor, your name (as well as the names of any co-instructors) should appear. (If this is not the case, please contact your ADA.)
  • If you select the drop-down option for TA, the names of the TA(s) should appear. (If this is not the case, you may adjust this by adding a TA or changing a staff assistant’s status from TA to auditor with TA privileges. Please see “To confirm/edit course roster” below for more instructions.)

To confirm/edit course roster (e.g. adding TAs):

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the SETTINGS option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • Click on SET MEMBERS tab on the top of the page
  • Click on the Show Student Panel link
  • View course roster to verify names
  • To add a TA:
    • Input UNI of TA
    • Select “Teaching Assistant” from the drop down box and submit

Note for adding Administrative Assistants: It is NOT advisable to have administrative or staff assistants listed as TAs or instructors because their names will appear to the students on the forms as individuals to evaluate. You can instead add them as auditors and indicate any level of access needed.

Note regarding non-registered attendees: Only registered students in the course can complete the course evaluation. Non-registered attendees (indicated by a small checked off box) do not have access to the course evaluations. The Registrar can change the status of a student from non-registered to registered.  Non-registered students are not included in the calculation of the response rate. 

To add an Administrative or Staff Assistant with TA or instructor privileges:

  • Input UNI of Assistant
  • Select “Non-registered Auditor” from the drop down box and submit
  • Return to Show Student Panel
  • View course roster where access and privileges for the assistant can be adjusted to mirror those of a TA or instructor at your discretion

To email nonrespondents during the evaluation period:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • Under the “Auto reminder to non-respondent students” column, click on the “Send e-mail reminder” link
  • Enter text in the Subject and Message fields and click “Submit Message” to send reminder to nonrespondents

To limit access to the grade book during the evaluation period:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select your course
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • Under the “Required” column, click the “Change” link to make the evaluation a requirement in order to see the grade book (i.e. “Yes” should appear in this column)

To access evaluation results for current courses:

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select the course you wish to view
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
  • In the column under the “Status” heading, click on the "View report" link. You will be directed to the reports dashboard where a selection of report types is available.  

To access evaluation results for past courses (this feature is only available for courses that were evaluated online in CourseWorks):

  • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
  • Select “Past Courses” on the left-hand menu
  • Select the course you wish to view
  • Click on the EVALUATION option on the left side of the screen
  • In the column under the “Status” heading, click on the "View report" link. You will be directed to the reports dashboard where a selection of report types is available.

Timeline and Workflow 

The timeline and workflow for fall will be as follows:

  • October 19-30: Departments download their course roster and assign the evaluation type for all courses and return the list to the the Office of the EVP for Arts and Sciences.
  • November 9 – December 6: Instructors can add up to 8 questions for each of their course.
    • Note:  A form is automatically selected for the following Core Curriculum courses: Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Frontiers of Science and University Writing.
  • November 30 – December 4: Edit and review period. Chair, DAAf, or proxy should review class rosters and evaluations selections to ensure accuracy.
  • December 7 – 16: Students complete evaluations. Instructors can monitor the response rate in CourseWorks.  Instructors can email nonrespondents during the evaluation period without being able to view either a list of nonrespondents or respondents. During the evaluation period, instructors can restrict access to the grade book to those students who have not completed an evaluation.
  • January 16 – 22: Final Examinations.
  • January 4: Grades due.
  • January 5 (afternoon): Evaluation results are available to those instructors who submitted grades by the end of the day by the deadline. 
  • January 5-25: Instructors should review evaluation results and alert your department chair if any inappropriate comments are found within the evaluation.
  • January 29: Evaluation results will become available in Vergil

Overview

responsibilities and tasks

Student Responsibilities

Students are responsible for the following: 

  • Completing the course evaluation for each course they take in Arts and Sciences (in CourseWorks) 
  • Providing honest, constructive, and courteous feedback
  • See the FAQs tab for more information

Instructor Responsibilities

Instructors are responsible for the following: 

  • Ensuring that only instructors in the course are listed in the class roster as instructors 
  • Adding all TAs and TFs to the course roster as TAs
  • Ensuring that other assistants in the course are added as non-registered auditors, i.e. not as TAs
    •   Note: Only registered students will be able to complete the evaluation form.  Non-registered students will not have access to the evaluations and are not included in the calculation of the response rate.
  • Note: A form is automatically selected for the following Core Curriculum courses: Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Frontiers of Science and University Writing
  • Adding up to 8 questions at the discretion of the instructor (optional) 
  • Encouraging students to complete the evaluation, either through communication in class or via email, or incentive-based alternatives such as restricting student access to the gradebook until the evaluation has been completed
  • Providing TAs and TFs with results of their evaluations and guiding them in interpreting student feedback
  • See the FAQs tab for more information

Department Administrators (Chairs, ADAs, and Staff) Responsibilities

Department administrators (department chair, ADA, or a proxy) are responsible for the following: 

  • Ensuring that instructors and TAs or TFs are correctly listed in the department’s courses 
  • Download course roster and assigning appropriate evaluation templatefor courses
  • Working with instructors to provide TAs and TFs with results of their TA evaluations
  • See the FAQs tab for more information

For Students

At the end of each semester, students are asked to evaluate undergraduate courses within Arts and Sciences in an online evaluation.  On the first day of the evaluation period, students receive an e-mail notifying them that the course evaluations are available. This e-mail contains a link to the evaluation in CourseWorks. Students have approximately two weeks to submit their evaluations. Students will continue to receive e-mail reminders throughout the evaluation period until they have completed an evaluation for all of their courses.  Please note that only registered students will be able to complete the course evaluation.

Evaluations submitted in CourseWorks are CONFIDENTIAL.  Neither instructors nor Arts and Sciences administrators can trace any response back to a student’s university ID.  Although instructors can send e-mail reminders to nonrespondents, they CANNOT view the list of nonrespondents or respondents.  Analogously, while instructors can choose to restrict student access to the CourseWorks gradebook until an evaluation is completed, they CANNOT view the list of students whose access to the gradebook is either restricted or not restricted. Furthermore, students do not have to answer demographic questions if they do not wish to do so and the default answer, “N/A”, will automatically be chosen.

Please note that students are able to submit an evaluation by answering only a core set of 9 multiple choice questions.  Responses to additional questions are not required to submit the evaluation form. 

Evaluation administration overview

Department administrators play an integral role in the administration of the online course evaluations.

It is their responsibility to be the primary support to both instructor and their department throughout the duration of steps carried out during the semester to prepare for the administration of course evaluations.

At the start of each semester, department administrators are prompted to review their department’s courses listed in CourseWorks. They must inform us of any additions, deletions, and changes to this list, including whether or not the department’s graduate courses should be included. The department administrators should also work with instructors to ensure that the correct instructors and TAs are listed in each course roster on CourseWorks. 

Next, after instructors have selected the appropriate evaluation type, department administrators have the option to select an appropriate form on the instructors’ behalf for those that made no selection at all.

For administrative purposes, department administrators have access to all evaluation results for courses evaluated online in CourseWorks. In addition, department administrators may request a spreadsheet version of the results from our office.  Please contact Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu or (212) 851-0755 to request the report in a spreadsheet format.

All department administrators who are responsible for the course evaluations need administrative access in CourseWorks. Department chairs and ADAs are automatically granted access. A proxy, designated by the chair or ADA, can also receive administrative access by completing the online request form

Different levels of access can be granted. First, the applicant can request "edit" or "view" access depending on whether changing or simply viewing the course is appropriate. Second, full access to all parts of CourseWorks sites (including those with student sensitive information) - or - restricted access (without access to Class Email, Discussion, Grade Book, Test & Quiz) can be provided. We recommend that for those department administrators who play a key role in the evaluations that full editing access is provided. Individuals with this access are able to act on behalf of the instructors, select the appropriate form for a course, add course specific questions, and manage the course roster in CourseWorks.

evaluation templates

  • Evaluation templates forthcoming
     

If none of these forms is appropriate for your class, please contact Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu or (212) 851-0755 to make a request.

response rates

The encouragement instructors provide in their personal interactions with students has by far the most significant effect on response rates. Making an announcement in class about the importance of the evaluations can have significant positive effects on response rates as well as on the quality of feedback. Alternatively, emailing students during the evaluation period can also be extremely effective. Since instructors can view response rates during the evaluation period, email reminders can be timed strategically. For example, after the first wave of responses, the response rate may only increase by small increments; a personal email reminder from the instructor at this time can have a powerful effect on students’ willingness to provide feedback. Encouraging students to thoughtfully complete the open-ended questions will likely improve both the quantity and quality of such comments.

There are two tools within CourseWorks that may be useful for instructors during the evaluation period:

  • Emailing nonrespondents

Throughout the evaluation period, instructors can send an e-mail reminder to nonrespondents directly from their personal account. The instructors CANNOT see the names or e-mails of the students they are emailing, nor can they view a list of respondents.

  • Limiting access to the grade book

During the evaluation period, instructors can limit access to the grade book to only those students who have completed the course evaluation. Instructors CANNOT view a list of students who have or do not have access to the grade book. Once the evaluation period closes, students automatically have access to the grade book.

access to results

For the online evaluations, instructors can easily access the results for the most recent courses as well as for past courses which were evaluated online through CourseWorks. Instructors can select among the following formats to view reports:

  • Instructor(s) (Each report listed will be available for each course instructor)
    • Concise Report (This is a 1-page report summarizing the evaluation results)
    • Graphs Report without Comments
    • Graphs Report with Comments
  • Teaching Assistant(s) (Each report listed will be available for each course TA)
  • Graphs Report without Comments
  • Graphs Report with Comments
  • Graph without Comments
  • Statistic without Comments
  • Theme without Comments
  • Course-specific Questions without Comments
  • Comments Only
  • Graph with Comments
  • Statistic with Comments
  • Theme with Comments
  • Course-specific Questions with Comments
  • Course

The Graph report provides a graphical representation of the frequency distribution for the multiple choice questions and includes all comments.

The Theme report provides a bar graph representation of responses to the multiple choice questions and includes all comments. Please note that this report collapses the multiple choice categories from 5 to 3; specifically, of the 5 choices the top two categories are collapsed and the bottom two categories are collapsed.

The Stats report provides counts and percentages of the frequency distribution for the multiple choice questions and includes all comments. It also provides the mean rating, standard deviation from the mean, and median rating for each of the multiple choice questions.

Please note that instructors can view the results only after grades are due. Furthermore, in order to preserve the anonymity of students, if a course has an enrollment of 4 or fewer students, the results will not be available online to the instructor. Instructors can contact the department chair if they wish to see results for these courses. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers

For Instructors:

All undergraduate courses within Arts and Sciences are included in the online evaluations. Please note that graduate courses will only be included in the Arts and Sciences online evaluations at the department’s or instructor’s request. Please send a list of graduate courses to Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu by the deadline.

Graduate courses will only be included at the department’s or instructor’s request. Please send a list of graduate courses to Sabrina Buckwalter at sb2997@columbia.edu by the deadline.

  • How can I create custom questions for my course evaluations?
    • Log in to CourseWorks with your UNI
    • Select your course
    • Click on the EVALUATION option on the menu on the left side of the screen
    • Click on the Evaluation Title (this is the evaluation that you had previously selected)
    • Add course specific questions to the bottom of the evaluation
    • Select type of question (Multiple Choice, Yes/No, Short Answer, Long Answer)

Note for selecting multiple choice questions: You will have to choose a rating scale for your multiple choice questions.  Although several different scales are available [link to various scales], one scale needs to be selected for all multiple choice questions added by the instructor. In other words, all instructor-added multiple choice questions will have to be tailored to the same scale. You can, of course, combine multiple choice questions with yes/no, true/false, short, and long answer questions.

Only instructors can create and add custom questions to the evaluation form.

Evaluation results are available to those instructors who submit grades by the deadline on the afternoon after grades are due. If instructors have not submitted grades, they must do so before accessing the course evaluation results. 

Access to evaluation results are available to instructors, department chairs, Academic Department Administrators (ADA), a proxy designated by the department chair or ADA, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences in particular the Academic Affairs Division, and the Provost of the University.

The Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences requires that for all Arts and Sciences undergraduate and graduate courses students have the opportunity to evaluate the course.

For Administrators

Department chairs and ADAs are automatically granted access. A proxy, designated by the chair or ADA, can also receive administrative access by completing the online request form

All undergraduate courses within Arts and Sciences are included in the online evaluations. In general these courses include all 4000 level and below courses, except those starting with G (e.g. G4999). If you have any special requests to include or exclude courses, please let us know as soon as possible by contacting Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu by the deadline. Please note that graduate courses will only be included in the Arts and Sciences online evaluations at the department’s or instructor’s request.  Please send a list of graduate courses to Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu by the deadline.

Graduate courses will only be included at the department’s or instructor’s request. Please send a list of graduate courses to Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu by the deadline.

For Students

In order to ensure that only students registered in a given course can evaluate the course, students need to log in to CourseWorks to give them access to the evaluation for courses they are enrolled in.  Nevertheless, individual responses CANNOT be linked back to the student who submitted the response.

No, instructors cannot identify students who have or have not completed the evaluation.  And even though instructors can send an email to all nonrespondents, they cannot view the list of respondents or nonrespondents. Similarly, even though access to the gradebook can be restricted to only those students who completed the evaluation, an instructor cannot see which students have or do not have access to the gradebook.

Instructors cannot link responses to demographic questions to a response to another question. For example, if a student selects to identify her school, year, or major, this information is provided to the instructor in aggregate form only and is not correlated with responses on other questions.  Of course, students do not have to answer demographic questions if they do not wish to do so and the default answer, “N/A”, will automatically be chosen.

No, evaluation results are available to instructors who submit grades by the deadline on the afternoon after grades are due. If instructors have not submitted grades, they must do so before accessing the course evaluation results. 

Access to evaluation results are available to instructors, department chairs, Academic Department Administrators (ADA), a proxy designated by the department chair or ADA (if applicable), the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences in particular the Academic Affairs Division, and the Provost of the University.

Instructors use the evaluations to revise course materials, improve pedagogy, evaluate the effectiveness of new techniques, and review Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Teaching Fellows (TFs). TAs and TFs often include the course evaluations when applying to academic positions.  Administrators use the evaluations to assess the effectiveness of instructors and to compile teaching dossiers for academic reviews.

Some instructors or departments have chosen to and do post evaluation results for particular courses.

No, students only need to answer the core questions to submit the evaluation and can elect to answer additional questions as they wish.

If the evaluation period is still open, please inform Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu at the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences about the problem as soon as possible. 

Please contact your instructor or, if you prefer, Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu at the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences about a problem as soon as possible.

An evaluation cannot be changed once it has been submitted. If you believe that you filled out an evaluation incorrectly, please inform Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu  at the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences about the problem as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately evaluations cannot be submitted once the evaluation period is closed. 

It is a student’s professional responsibility to provide feedback to their instructors and to do so with honesty and courtesy.  Evaluations are important for a number of reasons. Course evaluations give instructors a unique perspective on how students experience the course. Instructors use the evaluations to revise course materials, improve pedagogy, evaluate the effectiveness of new techniques, and review Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Teaching Fellows (TFs). TAs and TFs often include the course evaluations when applying to academic positions. Administrators use the evaluations to assess the effectiveness of instructors and to compile teaching dossiers for academic reviews. Overall, course evaluations are a key component of academia.

If you have any questions about course evaluations, please contact Jessie Tong at jt2622@columbia.edu. Of course, you may also choose to contact your instructor, TA, or department chair or administrator.