Office of the Provost

70 By Spring Interim Report

First Things First

Congratulations to our Master of Public Health Graduate Program in the Muskie School, which achieved the top return rate of 84% on electronic course evaluations this fall.  As promised, the MPH program will receive for their efforts $500 to support the academic event of its choosing.  Congratulations also to our student winner Tonya Bailey-Curry, who will have one of her courses this spring paid for by the Provost’s Office.  Similar incentives will be offered to programs and students in semesters to come.


In fall 2014, USM made the transition to a fully electronic course evaluation.  There were a number of reasons for this change, among them the fact that our optical scanner did not work effectively and could no longer be maintained.  Electronic evaluations are more efficient and sustainable than paper evaluations; they save paper and time and allow all USM students the same evaluation experience. That said, like many universities who have moved to an electronic process, we would like to improve our response rate: hence the 70 By Spring campaign.  At a national level, electronic evaluation response rates vary drastically.  Some institutions struggle to obtain a rate of 50%, while others obtain rates of 80% or above, usually by offering small incentives and increasing campus involvement in the evaluation process as we are trying to do.  Thus, while 70% is an ambitious goal, we can get there.


Last fall (2015), our overall response rate on electronic course evaluations was 37%.   This fall (2016) we reached 45%.  We should be proud of this 8% improvement, but I know we can do better. 

Our overall response rate is artificially low because of courses with very low enrollments (independent studies, internships, etc.) that should not be included in the software system.  Some departments have already removed these courses from the standard course evaluation process by contacting the Office of Academic Assessment. If we removed all courses that regularly get 0% response rates, our overall average response rate would be 50%, precisely the average national response rate on electronic course evaluations.

In addition, our overall response rate does not show the full effort or progress being made across the university.  There are a wide variety of individual courses that consistently obtain response rates above 70%.  If faculty members engage actively with students in the evaluation process by offering incentives or by customizing evaluations to include questions unique to their courses and the engagement of the individual students in those courses, they can offer students a reflective experience in the electronic evaluation and increase response rates as well.

Statistics You Need to Know

Prior to Fall 2014 the average overall response rate for the paper-based evaluation ranged from 67% to 69%.  Individual course response rates ranged from 30% to 90%.


Fall 2015: overall average online response rate = 37%

CAHS: 33%      CMHS: 42%      CSTH: 35%     LAC: 41%  


Fall 2016: overall average online response rate = 45%

CAHS: 41%      CMHS: 51%      CSTH: 43%     LAC: 45%  


Fall 2016:  top response rates by department/program (average of 50% or higher)

Public Health (CMHS)                                               84%

UM School of Law                                                     75%

Occupational Therapy (LAC)                                     74%

Professional Education (CMHS)                                72%

School Psychology (CMHS)                                      71%

Adult Education  (CMHS)                                          69%

PPM (CMHS)                                                             64%

Teacher Education (CMHS)                                       64%

Art (CAHS)                                                                61%

Counseling (CMHS)                                                   60%

Social Work (CMHS)                                                 59%

Biology (CSTH)                                                         51%

Leadership and Organizational Studies (LAC)          51%


What’s Next?

I know there are mixed feelings about USM’s electronic course evaluations.  At the end of this academic year our contract for the software we currently use will be up for renewal.  This presents an opportunity for us to consider what we need from our electronic evaluation.  Therefore, I plan to visit every academic department to get counsel and feedback on how we can do a better job on electronic evaluations.  Please consider the pros and cons of the software and process we use and watch for agenda items re: electronic course evaluations at your upcoming department, program, or college meetings.  I look forward to gathering your thoughts and recommendations this spring.

System Discussions

The UM and UMM campuses are currently piloting electronic course evaluation software, and this spring a UMS discussion will commence to explore whether all campuses might use the same electronic course evaluation software.  UMA uses electronic course evaluations exclusively, and UMPI is moving in that direction as the service it uses—IDEA—is moving to a purely online/cloud-based platform.

Special thanks to Susan King, Sally Meredith, and Arline Palmer for their work on this report!