From the Director: IDEA changes are on the way

March 31, 2016 / By: Dr. Ann Johnson, Director of the Center for Faculty Development / Professor of Psychology

By: Dr. Ann Johnson, Director of the Center for Faculty Development

I recently attended the IDEA Center-sponsored annual training meeting with Angela High-Pippert, our Coordinator of Classroom Consultation services, and we were impressed with the positive changes taking place – both in the content of IDEA tools and format of reporting to faculty. 

Probably the biggest change afoot is the switch to online administration of student forms. It’s not altogether clear when St. Thomas would make the change, but it is inevitable (as IDEA is discontinuing paper administration) and will likely be in the next year or two.

What are the benefits of online administration? Here are a few:

  • Sustainability: no more use of paper, or the energy used to ship paper forms back and forth
  • Efficient distribution of feedback reports to faculty: Now, many complain of the time delay in receiving their feedback and it’s due in part to the time it takes to ship and process paper forms. Faculty will receive their feedback more quickly with the new format
  • Improved visual format for feedback: The web-based platform for summarizing feedback data is truly a wonderful improvement over the old paper version. It allows for dynamic and interactive access to feedback data as well as the other resources IDEA provides for making formative use of student responses.
  • Anonymity: With paper forms, students complain that their handwriting in the comments section undermines anonymity – a problem if the student is planning to take another class from the same instructor. Online comments eliminate that problem

And one more . . .

On the new online platform, student ratings will only be adjusted upward; there will be no more downward adjustment. Yes, you read that correctly. Using student data on work habits and motivation, IDEA will adjust ratings upward where appropriate (when motivation and work habits are weak), but they will no longer adjust scores downward.

In addition, IDEA is introducing some positive changes in their list of learning objectives. They have consolidated a few while adding some new items like the following:

Developing knowledge and understanding of diverse perspectives, global awareness, or other cultures

Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision making

Learning to apply knowledge and skills to benefit others or serve the public good

These new items will surely be welcomed by St. Thomas faculty. For a better view of the planned changes in learning objectives, see the IDEA Learning Essentials Crosswalk document.  

I know many faculty are concerned about the impact of online administration on response rates*. While we should take the issue seriously, there is now considerable evidence that online administration does not translate into lower ratings. And – there are plenty of good strategies out there for maximizing student response rates. One possible method: capture student responses in the classroom, as we’ve always done, but using smart phones and tablets. The new IDEA format is highly accessible on mobile devices.

We’ll be providing more detail soon, but I wanted to alert you to these interesting and, I believe, truly positive changes in store for using IDEA

* See the section "Student Ratings Administered Online versus on Paper” in IDEA Paper #50: Student Ratings of Teaching: A Summary of Research and Literature