The issue of course evaluations was pushed into the forefront of the Bryant community’s mind this semester and literally became a topic for debate. The conversation started when an article appeared in The Archway on February 3. That article was viewed by more than 400 people within twelve hours of being posted on the paper’s website.
Numerous conversations with students, faculty, and administrators followed. Many of those opinions were featured in the Opinion section of the paper’s February 10 edition. The lead story of the February 17 edition reported on the evaluation systems used at other institutions in the New England area.
The conversation continued when Omicron Delta Kappa held their annual Cambridge Debates. Four Bryant students and four Cambridge students debated whether course evaluations should be public knowledge to the Bryant community. The audience voted yes they should, and now many professors are seeing to it that they are.
“Bryant Scores” is a new Google site created for the Bryant University community that will offer students the chance to view some of the course evaluations that they fill out at the end of each semester. Each course evaluation on the site has and will be voluntarily offered to the site by individual Bryant professors who are willing to allow students to view their evaluations. The idea for professors to volunteer their course evaluations began two years ago when two Bryant students created their own website, bryantscores.com. The students encountered many obstacles, and also graduated with no one to oversee the site, and thus the site didn’t gain enough momentum to succeed.
Many changes have gone into this new site to help it gain acceptance among professors, faculty, and students. First, the site is no longer visible to the public. It can only able to be viewed by someone with a @bryant.edu Gmail account. As of right now, that group only includes Bryant students, so they are the only ones able to view the evaluations. This added level of security is a common feature at most other institutions which publish evaluations including Harvard, Brown, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Professors are shown to be more inclined to volunteer their reports knowing that they will only be able to be viewed by students attempting to make informed decisions. Professors who volunteer to participate in the site are manually added to a list of approved users and then emailed a link to the site so that they can be comfortable that their information is presented accurately.
Additionally, professors are encouraged to send in some commentary on their reports. It is understandable that data is often not useful without an explanation so professors are encouraged to provide all thoughts and concerns about their evaluations.
Although there is a split within the Bryant community about whether evaluations should be public, there appears to be a consensus that the other websites that Bryant students currently use during their course selection process are unreliable and simply do not provide quality information. This new website is trying to remedy that problem.
Bryant students can view the website by logging onto their Bryant Gmail account, clicking “Sites” on the top navigational bar, and then searching “Bryant Scores.”
Professors who are interested in having their reports published or have suggestions for the site are encouraged to reach out to current site administrator, Jackie Ammirato at email@example.com. The site will be managed next year by incoming Archway Editor-in-Chief, Kelsey Nowak.
In order for transparency, and more specifically “Bryant Scores,” to prosper here at Bryant, both students and faculty need to work together with this new site. While other top tier institutions have had course evaluations public, in some sense, for many years, Bryant has yet to take that next step. In order for the university to take that next step, people should be sure to log on to the new “Bryant Scores” and encourage its use to others in the community.