SA posts Academic Update

The Student Association posted the Spring 2000 Academic Update and part of the SA test file on its Web site this week.

The Academic Update provides data from surveys in which students rate classes and professors in a variety of categories, including speaking styles of professors, the amount of homework classes require and the grade students expected to receive. The service was posted before general registration, but too late to help students who reserved classes during pre-registration.

The graphs from last year’s survey are replaced by tables that offer faster download times. This year’s survey posed the same questions to students. Courses are still listed under professors’ names and individual departments.

The SA uses Attitude Research, a California-based consulting firm, to compile the results and maintain the Web site. The process costs the SA between $5,000 and $6,000 a semester, depending on the number of surveys received, said Jordan Usdan, the SA’s director of the 2000 Academic Update.

Georgetown University funds its own course evaluation system. It mandates that professors hand out evaluation forms to their classes, the results of which are released to students, Usdan said. He said GW should provide a University-funded Academic Update that would save the SA money and would require participation by all professors. In the SA’s current system professor participation is voluntary.

The SA plans to continue producing the Academic Update despite the high cost.

Usdan said the SA hopes to add graduate classes to the Academic Update in the future, but cannot afford to include them now, Usdan said.

While the Academic Update serves as an informative tool for students unsure of which classes to register for, Usdan said it is not a vehicle to tell which classes or professors are easier than others.

The goal is not to facilitate students taking the easiest courses, he said. It’s to reflect choosing teachers that fit your learning style.

Some students said they were unfamiliar with the Web site.

I don’t even know what that is, sophomore Jeremy Kaplan said when asked about the survey.

Sophomore Molly O’Keefe, who said she had not heard of the update before, said it is a good idea.

SA President Dave Burt said the SA does its best to publicize the update through campus postings and sending messages over the SA e-mail listserve.

If there are some students who haven’t heard about it, we’re obviously going to have to (publicize) it a little more, Burt said.

Burt said it is not possible for the University to require teachers to pass out surveys.

(Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman) attached a letter encouraging professors to use the system, but as far as forcing, it can’t be done, Burt said.

Burt said the SA is trying to establish a single rating system for all GW professors. Individual departments hand out their own surveys to rate professors.

The SA also added some of its test file to the Web site. Although the SA still maintains a test file at its office for student use, the most widely used exams will be available online for the first time this year.

We’ve started putting the files online, particularly the most popular tests, Burt said.

Burt said that the SA first started to post the files as Adobe Acrobat files, but then switched to posting the files as JPG files to free up disk space.

Burt said the SA is considering offering prizes such as sport bottles and beverage openers to encourage students to give the SA their old midterm or final examinations.

Students can access the Academic Update and test file at sa.gwu.edu.

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