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OU graduates create new app to show instructor evaluations for courses

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The OU Student-Teacher Evaluation Visualizations web app on an Iphone Sept. 10.

RateMyProfessors is out, STEV @ OU is in.

STEV, which stands for Student-Teacher Evaluation Visualizations, is a new app created by three OU graduates that allows students to visualize data from course and instructor evaluations. With STEV, students are able to search for a specific course and instructor and compare the results of past instructor evaluations in color-coded charts and graphs.

Sam Jett, a 2019 mechanical engineering graduate, built the app alongside two other 2019 OU graduate students: Zach Schuermann, a computer engineering and mechanical engineering graduate, and Joseph Lovoi, a finance, entrepreneurship and venture management graduate. 

The app was not built for a class or a project — it was made because they felt it was needed, Jett said.

“To be completely honest, we felt that some of the professors inside of our department were not good professors, and yet they teach the same course year in and year out,” Jett said. 

Jett said he is fairly confident that students have given these professors low ratings in course evaluations, making him concerned that they are still teaching these courses. 

“There’s no accountability because (students don’t see) the results of these ratings,” Jett said. 

The data from course and instructor evaluations are available to the public online. But Jett said there are several pages to sift through when looking for a specific course or instructor — for example, the College of Arts and Sciences alone has 1,925 pages of evaluations for the spring 2019 semester.

But STEV @ OU is meant to fix that.

The app’s about page suggests that it should be used in place of sites like Rate My Professor. According to the page, sites like these often don’t have adequate reviews, because the students who use these sites to write reviews usually had a strong reaction to their professor, whether they felt positively or negatively.

Jett said students will often submit reviews to sites like Rate My Professor just because of a strong reaction, causing the data to not accurately reflect general student opinions. 

The three students worked with faculty from the Gallogly College of Engineering to make the data from these evaluations more accessible, then presented their plan for the app to the Undergraduate Student Congress at the end of the spring 2019 semester and received unanimous approval to continue their work. 

The students did not necessarily need approval for the project but wanted to know if students really wanted a service like this, Jett said. 

Nate Cross, an entrepreneurship senior, said he regularly completes course instructor evaluations at the end of each semester and finds the app somewhat helpful, but is concerned for the accuracy of the evaluations.

Cross said some professors offer extra credit to students for completing the evaluations, which could potentially make the reviews biased or “higher than they should be realistically.”

“Students should have access to the written components of the evaluation program,” Cross said. “Professors should be further discouraged from offering extra credit for filling them out. I wonder if OU can experiment with making course and instructor evaluations a mandatory course component in order to improve the experience of everyone.”

The problems with course evaluations have even gotten the attention of OU Faculty Senate.

A joint effort between the Faculty Welfare Committee and the Office of the Provost has spent a semester working to collect and analyze information on how instructors are evaluated, stated Keri Kornelson, chair of the Faculty Welfare Committee and a professor in the department of mathematics, in an email.

Kornelson said the group is working to identify problems within the evaluation process and will then begin to make changes to the process itself, which would change the data in the app. 

“We will use some ideas generated at other institutions and will collect feedback from students, faculty and other relevant parties as we start designing a different tool that fixes or reduces the shortcomings of the current instrument,” Kornelson wrote in an email. 

Kornelson wrote that if and when a new tool is developed, the group will then seek programs to pilot test the tool. 

Since creating STEV @ OU, the three graduates have moved on from OU to various software areas, but they hope to continue to work with OU to make the app a new senior capstone project within the computer science department.

“We were hoping that we could share this both as a tool for students to use and then as a learning opportunity for capstone groups,” Jett said.

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