2007 STUDENTS’ CHOICE AWARDS

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By Shannon Higgins

For the first time since the school posted a limited version of course evaluation survey results online last year, the Eyeopener brings you the results.

Ryerson’s Faculty Course Surveys (FCS) allow students to turn the tables on their professors and grade their teaching on a scale of one to five.

The surveys are the only means available for students to directly rate the quality of education they are receiving at Ryerson.

Surprisingly, the surveys show that the average (mean) Ryerson student is quite satisfied with courses and professors, even when their courseloads are heavy.

To get to a final rating for each program, we combined the nine survey questions pertaining to instructor effectiveness (best/worst) and workload (toughest/easiest) for the past two years.

The school-wide average for all programs was 1.7, where “1.0” indicates full satisfaction with the course and teacher in question.

All parties agree that the results as currently published should not be taken too seriously.

As head of the Ryerson Faculty Association Dave Mason remarked, the quality of a teacher or class is determined by a “complex set of relations that is difficult to capture in numbers.”

So, for better or worse, we deliver what the school has made available.

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History, midwifery and psychology received the best marks, while urban planning, physics and graphic communication management (GCM) were ranked worst overall.

The programs with the heaviest workloads were midwifery, chemical engineering and electrical/computer engineering. Students said sociology, philosophy and French/Spanish were the lightest.

Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau, chair of psychology, was not surprised that his program ranked well.

“We have a long-standing commitment to high-quality teaching,” Boudreau said.

Sociology chair Terry Gillin said his program, rated easiest overall, mostly consists of professional electives, adding that offering “manageable” courses is a priority in the program.

“The exercise of having students evaluate faculty is an important tool,” he added. “We take the process seriously.” and try to learn about our teaching from students.”

The chair of GCM, Abhay Sharma, declined to respond to his program being rated third-least favourably by students in the program.

Second-year architecture student Jessica Luczycki said the questions seem carefully chosen to entice positive answers, adding she was surprised architecture wasn’t rated as having the heaviest courseload.

“We’re not sleeping, we’re not eating, we’re not functioning normally. We have eight projects going on right now,” she said.

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Ryerson’s course evaluations haven’t always been public. President Sheldon Levy said the administration moved to post them online last year after a request was made under Ontario freedom of information laws.

“We’ve been pushing for broader access for years,” said Nora Loreto, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

Ryerson is not the only school to publish survey results, though it may be alone in publishing such a limited version.

At some other schools, such as the University of British Columbia, McGill and the University of Toronto, students have struck agreements with faculty to get results for individual courses published. Students use the information to help choose which classes to take.

According to Loreto, a combination of hard work from the RSU and the change in university privacy and disclosure policy led to the results being posted online.

But what good are the numbers if the administration doesn’t act on the results, asked Luczycki.

“I don’t really see what the course evaluations do. Nothing has changed,” she said.

Students in the Arts and Science Students’ Society (ASSU) at U of T have enjoyed published results since 1981.

Rather than fighting increased student access to the surveys, the U of T administration actually helps cover the costs of processing and publishing the survey results.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t use them,” said Ryan Hayes, president of ASSU. “It’s important to stay critical of the survey process to make sure it’s a tool for change.”

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