Teacher evaluations move to online platform

Forms will be available through a third party system instead of the previous paper format

Teacher evaluation forms have been moved from paper to an online format. The forms will be available through a third party in Montreal called eXplorance. Though the forms themselves have not changed, the altered platform has received mixed reviews from faculty members.

Although the University could have continued to use Moodle for the evaluation forms, much manual work would have been required. The new survey platform provides a software tool that automatically performs the necessary tasks.

Mt. A will be utilizing their evaluation platform, Blue.  According to the eXplorance website, “Blue [is] an all-in-one evaluation platform that puts ‘being better’ at the forefront,… comprehensively measur[ing] needs, expectations, knowledge, competencies and skills and provid[ing] advanced reporting and analytics.”

Jeff Ollerhead, professor, provost and vice-president of academic and research affairs, explained the three reasons behind the change in platform: convenience, environmental friendliness and “[compliance] with our current collective agreement.”

On Sept. 13, faculty members met to discuss the updated medium in a presentation led by Toni Roberts, educational technology consultant and part-time faculty member.

Politics and international relations professor James Devine expressed his support for the change, saying, “This is the third university I have been with through this process [of moving] from paper to online and I actually haven’t noticed any difference in the response [of students in evaluation forms].”

Amanda Cockshutt, dean of science, agreed with Devine: “Oh, [the online system] is so much better than the paper, miles better.”

However, not all faculty members were as receptive to the change. Biology professors Matthew Litvak and Diana Hamilton joked about students getting overwhelmed by all of the forms available in one place and getting confused and mixing up responses for different classes.

Roberts also addressed past questions regarding security: “This is more secure in the sense that in transit the data is secure. It’s a secure website.” In fact, the data is ultimately stored on another server that is separate from the web server, which means it cannot be accessed from the web.

“We expect there will be less issues with privacy and data integrity than the system currently used,” said Ollerhead. Additionally, because the servers are in Canada, “it’s under Canadian law and the chances are somewhat reduced of illegal trolling, I am told,” he continued.

Ollerhead also referred to concerns about the location of the company. Being in Montreal, he said that some people may feel that “it’s out of [our] control. But in fact, currently all of [Mt. A’s] data is at UNB, all of our servers are there…. Moodle is at UNB.” The University uses these nonlocal servers in order to reduce overall costs.

The University’s contract with eXplorance transfers responsibility of information back to Mt. A, so that all information is owned by the University and is not at the hands of the third party company.

“It won’t impact faculty members … but it could offer some other possibilities [for them] down the road,” said Ollerhead.

If all goes to plan, the new evaluation forms will available in November 2017. “I can’t guarantee that all students will be using it because there are still some difficulties,” Ollerhead said. “But I imagine the majority of students will be using the system.”

There will be a new dashboard in Moodle where students can access the interface, so students may not even notice that they are leaving Moodle. “It will be really simple and easy. Everyone will know how to get there,” Ollerhead said.

Emma Bush