Santa Fe Community College Improves Quality, Feedback and Efficiency of Course Evaluations

Background

Established in 1983, Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) in New Mexico serves some 14,500 students each year in its credit, noncredit and adult basic education programs. Students attend classes either on campus or at a distance to pursue 51 associate degrees, certificates and letters of qualification.

Multiple Uses for Online Assessments

SFCC began using Questionmark in 2004 in order to offer course placement exams online. The college’s testing center administers the placement exams to establish skill levels for students planning to take classes in English, math, or foreign languages.

The college also uses Questionmark for course and faculty evaluations in gatekeeper and distance education courses, with plans for a major expansion to all courses this year.

In addition, SFCC is using Questionmark for course-related tests, particularly in the nursing department, the dental assistant program and the emergency medical technician program.

More Efficient Course Evaluations

SFCC Testing Center Director Chantel Reynolds says that using Questionmark has vastly improved the process and the results of course evaluations. She explains that SFCC has typically used Scantron sheets, and that a faculty member must go to classes to conduct evaluations. Not only does this consume valuable instruction time, collating the data from paper-based evaluations is time-consuming, and instructors often haven’t seen the results for almost three months after the end of the course.

With Questionmark, the reports are immediate, and instructors see the results right away. Reynolds says this makes the feedback more meaningful for them, and gathering the feedback via Questionmark has improved its quality. “We get more information out of the students in this format, because they feel like their confidentiality is protected—their handwriting isn’t involved,” Reynolds says. “It also benefits the instructor because the comments have become so much more specific.”

The evaluations also tell faculty chairs what’s going on in the courses. The evaluation includes questions about the instructor’s performance and other aspects of the course, such as the textbook or the support services offered to students. “If 30 of the students say that the textbook isn’t good, that’s something we’ll reevaluate,” Reynolds says.

Integration with WebCT

The college has used the Questionmark WebCT Connector to integrate Questionmark with the WebCT learning management system. The integration has made it possible to add links to a course to any assessments, tests or evaluations for that course. That in turn makes it easier to maximize participation in evaluations.

Using Questionmark's Statistical Reports

Reynolds explains that the college uses Questionmark's item analysis reports to find out whether the questions are performing properly, if they need to be rewritten or are too difficult. The college also uses the survey report to get a graphical picture of the answers to assessment questions and see which answers get selected most often. The transcript report enables staff members to see assessment results for individual students. Reynolds says that using Questionmark for this kind of reporting is saving the college both money and resources.

“For us, the value of Questionmark for us is not so much in how it delivers assessments,” Reynolds says. “That’s nice, but the reason we like it is the reporting. With Questionmark I can make the data get up and dance if I want to.”

Expansion Plans

Administrative assistants are creating most of the evaluations, and they’ve been getting a crash course in Questionmark from Reynolds. But now Reynolds is planning a big training this summer, because the college is about to expand its use of Questionmark.

“Up to now, Questionmark has been a sort of pet project for the testing center,” she says. “But now the deans and faculty have seen the reporting and what Questionmark is capable of, and we’re going to take it campus-wide in as many formats as possible.”