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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 11, 2005

Senate cool to Web site

by Linda Charles

The Faculty Senate gave a lukewarm response to Pick-a-Prof, a Web-based site that provides student evaluations of classes and professors.

Chris Deal, director of academic affairs for the Government of the Student Body (GSB), told the senate at its March 8 meeting that GSB supports bringing Pick-a-Prof to campus.

The nationwide program is used at more than 99 institutions, including the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, Deal said.

The site offers student comments on professors, homework load, lecture style, exam type and attendance policy, Deal said. In addition, the site allows professors to post course descriptions and expectations, personal biographies, office hours and contact information.

The site also includes a student feedback system, which lets professors survey their students at any point in the semester for evaluation of teaching effectiveness, he added.

Deal noted that, barring significant objection from the faculty, GSB plans to bring Pick-a-Prof to campus by the end of the semester on a one- to two-year trial basis.

The site is free, supported through ads that GSB would approve, Deal said.

Sen. Bill Woodman, sociology, asked whether such sites weren't just a way for students "to find the path of least of resistance."

Deal responded that apathetic students would find the "easy" classes anyway by asking around, but the purpose of the site was to help students find the best professor.

Sen. Ashley Kyber, landscape architecture, noted she is in a small department and many classes are taught by only one professor, so any rating system would be of no benefit to students in those classes.

Sen. Carol Rosky, human development and family studies, said she was an adviser at another university where Pick-a-Prof was used. She said she found it useful in helping students pick classes. For example, some students preferred classes with essay exams.

Many of the questions from the senators revolved around the accuracy of the ratings, and whether one student could submit multiple evaluations, thus skewing results. Deal said he would look into what could be done to prevent multiple entries by the same person.

Other senators pointed out they already are being rated online through sites such as Rate My Professor.

Next Meeting

Tuesday, March 29
3:30 p.m.
Sun Room, MU