Course evaluation process evolves in response to COVID-19


Given the significant changes in University of Michigan class instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Provost will modify student course evaluations for the 2020 winter term that ends April 21.

Amid rising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, President Mark Schlissel announced in March that all classes on the Ann Arbor campus would be delivered remotely in alternative formats, and would not meet in person through the remainder of the term. A similar approach will be used in the spring and summer terms. 

The sudden and unexpected shift to remote instruction left many faculty — particularly those up for promotion or tenure — concerned about course evaluations this semester. Course evaluations typically are one of many components of faculty evaluations for tenure.

Despite the unique circumstances of the semester, evaluations for the Ann Arbor campus will continue to use the standard eight core evaluation questions. The survey questions include asking students to rate their understanding of the course subject matter and how clearly their instructor explained course material.   

The evaluations also will:

  • Include expanded room for qualitative comments on the core questions.
  • Be shared with instructors, but will be used for developmental learning. They will not be considered as part of promotion and tenure decisions.
  • Include three additional questions (one quantitative, two qualitative) that will focus on the unique circumstance of the winter term.

The modifications were formulated based on a number of guiding principles including: “do no harm” in terms of the impact of evaluations from this atypical and disrupted semester on promotion and other performance assessments, as well as to promote equity and fairness.

Interim Provost Susan M. Collins said the winter term course evaluations will not be considered equivalent to those from other semesters due to the historical impact of COVID-19.

“We fully recognize the additional challenges this pandemic has created for everyone,” Collins said. “However, we feel it is important to proceed with evaluations — rather than canceling them — in an effort to maintain academic excellence and integrity, accountability in instruction and to assess and build remote teaching capabilities.”

Winter 2020 course evaluations will not be reported at the university level, but may be reported through individual school or college reporting systems at the discretion of the dean. As such, the winter term course evaluation data will not be accessible to students through ATLAS, a qualitative analysis software that organizes, analyzes, reports and visualizes data.


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