Course Evaluations

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Deans and Administrative Staff:

Introduction to NU Course Evaluations

NU partners with IDEA (Individual Development and Educational Assessment) to provide the university’s mechanism for evaluating courses. IDEA’s student ratings system is unique compared to traditional in-class teaching effectiveness instruments in three ways:

  • It focuses on student learning, rather than teacher personality, as the outcome.
    A teacher is considered effective when students acknowledge that they have made progress on important course objectives, not when they claim to like the professor.
  • It is nationally normed for an external comparison.
    IDEA results will show how your students’ learning compares to other students in classes of similar size and in classes with similar educational objectives. When possible, IDEA also provides comparisons by discipline.
  • It statistically adjusts scores for factors beyond a faculty member’s control.
    IDEA controls for class size and student variables, such as motivation and academic habits, that have been shown to influence students’ ratings of professors. Your final score will be adjusted to counteract these influences.

A sample of the Student Ratings of Instruction form that students will complete can be viewed at The diagnostic form measures student perception of learning in relationship to learning objectives that the instructor identifies as either Essential or Important.  Other objectives are surveyed as well, but do not play a significant role in the overall student rating of learning.  Further description of the instrument is available at

Set-Up Process

All courses at NU are surveyed each semester to measure student outcomes as an indicator of course and faculty effectiveness.

Before the administration of a course evaluation, the Instructor must complete an online Objectives Selection Form for each class to select the core teaching objectives.

The Objectives Selection Form ( identifies the educational objectives you believe students should meet in your course based on the curriculum and course design. On the Objectives Selection Form, select the bubble for each objective as either essential, important, or of minor importance. (Note: Some departments have previously selected objectives for a course, so check with your department chair.) It is essential to complete  the Objectives Selection Form prior to the close of the evaluation so results are not skewed.

Why Your Selection of Objectives is Important

One reason your selection of objectives on the Objectives Selection Form is critically important is that summative results are tailored to what you select as “important” or “essential.” Here is how it works:

  1. If you select an objective as “essential,” the average ratings that students provide on their progress on this objective will be double weighted in the process of calculating your summative score.
  2. If you select an objective as “important,” the average rating will be single weighted.
  3. If you select an objective as “minor importance,” the average ratings that students provide will not be used at all in calculating your summative score since you are indicating on the Objectives Selection Form that it was not a target of the course.
  4. If you do not select any objectives, they will all default to “important” with single weight. The ratings for all 12 objectives would be used to calculate your summative score. In a case such as this, the report would not be tailored to your particular class, and it would have less meaning for you.

Helpful Hints for Choosing Objectives

For a typical course, select between 3 and 5 essential and important objectives. In deciding on essential or important objectives, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this a significant part of the course (not just a class session or two)?
  • Do I do something specific to help students accomplish this objective?
  • Does the student’s progress on this objective affect his or her grade?

Further directions for completing the Objectives Selection Form, including insight into the process of selecting objectives and other pertinent information, are available at

Adding Questions to the Survey

Instructors can only add additional questions to a course before the start date of the student surveys. When the Objectives Selection Form is emailed to the instructor, a link to “Manage Additional Questions” is provided at the bottom of the welcome screen. Twenty total additional questions can be added (e.g., if 5 institutional questions are used, an instructor can add 15). The tutorial for Adding Additional Questions in IDEA Online illustrates the steps for faculty to add their own courses into IDEA Online.  Click on the following link for more information: Online Additional Questions.

Learning Essentials Form

For some courses, such as labs, music ensembles, or internships, the Learning Essentials form will be most appropriate. The Objectives Selection Form is still completed and additional questions can be added. A sample of this form is available at

Administering Course Evaluations

When teaching a face-to-face or hybrid course, instructors should designate 15 minutes during one of the final class sessions to allow students to complete the course evaluation.

Online instructors should notify students of the link to course evaluations. Providing encouragement through emails and forum announcements for students to complete the survey will assist with completion rates.

Tips/Strategies for Successfully Administering in Class

Standard procedure should include using class time to administer the IDEA survey. This demonstrates to students that NU values the exercise. Only as a follow-up procedure should students be instructed to complete the surveys out of class. For online courses, the Survey should be administered during a specific window of time to highlight the importance of completion.

It is important to communicate to students that their participation is expected and valued. Data reported by students is confidential unless an individual chooses to disclose identifying information. Please inform students that the evaluation process:

  1. Provides data on the effectiveness of the learning experience in each course.
  2. Informs the instructor on areas of success as well as areas needing further refinement.
  3. Allows for significant feedback on methods for course development and implementing best practices in the classroom.
  4. Provides data for curriculum planning and improvement.

Pick a day late enough in the semester/term so students can evaluate their progress. If possible, do not administer course evaluations when students are participating in or receiving feedback on a major evaluative assignment, such as a test or a major paper.

If you have not already done so, explain the course objectives to student in a way that enables them to rate their progress. This is not cheating the system. You can even identify course activities that were designed to assess a course objective, if you wish.

Make sure students understand the importance of their feedback to the evaluative process and encourage them to give their most honest and thoughtful feedback. You may want to indicate that the data will be reviewed by you, your department chair, and your dean, or that the scores will also count as one component in your advancement portfolio; this notifies them that their feedback will be read and is important.

Course Evaluation Reports

You will have access to course evaluation reports approximately one month after courses close. Faculty will receive an auto-generated email with a summary report.  In addition, you can access reports by clicking on this link:

After logging in with your NU email and password, you will have the option of selecting from several reports. The information posted at will help guide your selections.

For guidance on interpreting course evaluation reports, the information available at will provide an overview.