ONLINE COURSE EVALUATIONS: Student Contact Observation


by Sean Martin, Regular Faculty Member in the Philosophy Department, DTREC Co-Chair

How are evaluations for online classes different when it comes to student contact observation?

For the most part, evaluations of online instructional assignments should adhere to the same contractual standards and procedures as face-to-face evaluations. However, there are some obvious procedural differences pertinent to conducting student contact observations in an online course. For example:

  1. In a typical face-to-face class, the student contact observation is conducted during a single class session. Since there is no opportunity for a classroom visit in an online course, the question is often raised, "How much of an online course is subject to review in developing an Observation Report?" The answer is found in Article 14B (14B.11.B.1) of the contract: "Online observations will be limited to approximately one (1) week of online learning or one (1) module of teaching." Course design may vary considerably between instructors and courses. So, prior to conducting the observation, all parties to the evaluation process should establish a shared understanding in applying these criteria.

  2. The evaluation process is intended to be a collaborative and collegial exchange focused on the enhancement of professional performance. In face-to-face observations, "[e]ach team member who has committed to do an observation will contact the evaluee to schedule a mutually agreeable date and time to observe student contact-related duties during Weeks 6 through 11 of the evaluation semester (recommended timeline)." (14B.11.A.1) Likewise, for online observations, the particular "week" or "module" selected for observation should also be arranged by mutual agreement between the observer and the evaluee.

  3. As with face-to-face courses, it is imperative for everyone involved in online evaluations to maintain consistent and clear criteria throughout the process. To this end, both evaluees and members of the evaluation team may benefit from reviewing the Guidelines for Evaluating Online Instruction: Though use of this document is entirely optional, it was developed and approved by DTREC (the District Tenure Review and Evaluation Committee) in order to provide guidance to both evaluees and their evaluation teams in developing shared standards.

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