Loyola University Maryland

Institutional Research

Faculty Resources and Training

Course Evaluation Best Practices Resources

Use SmartEvals tools to help you improve your courses

Detailed instructions on the following tools can be found below under SmartEvals Training.

Add/See Notes

Under the class tile of selected course click “Add/See Notes” and type in any notes you want to make for yourself for future review/use. These can include reminders about things that affected your evaluation (positively or negatively) so you know what is working well and what can be improved as well as your reflection on student feedback trends and ideas on how you might follow-up on those.

Improve response rates

In addition to OIR’s efforts to remind students to participate, faculty can help drastically improve response rates!

Why is it important to have high response rates for your course evaluations to be meaningful?

For the feedback you receive from students to be meaningful, it is important to ensure there is a high response rate. If only one student shares a criticism out of three participants in a course of twenty-five students, then you cannot be sure if that was a common concern that you might want to focus on improving in the future or if it was the opinion of only one student. Also, to improve the usefulness of the students’ feedback, remind them that they should: 

  • Base their feedback on the entire course
  • Be specific
  • Use examples
  • Offer recommendations or suggestions

Take class time to let students know that their feedback is important to you

  • Remind students that you can use their feedback to:
    1. help identify areas of strength and where improvements can be made in the course
    2. serve as evidence of teaching efficacy or excellence for use in faculty promotion and tenure processes, award nominations, etc.
  • Give specific examples of how you have used feedback from previous course evaluations: Tell students about a recent example of feedback that you used to improve your course(s). This will help your students know how the feedback from previous students benefitted them and how their feedback will benefit students who take your course(s) in the future.
  • Give students time in class: Use the beginning or end of a class meeting (~10 minutes) to have the students take the course evaluation survey. This typically results in similar response rates when compared to previous administrations of pencil-and-paper course evaluations. If you do this, be sure you step out of the classroom to ensure their responses are confidential. Prior to the class meeting where you will have the students participate, either encourage students to bring an appropriate device (e.g., laptop, tablet, smartphone) or schedule a computer lab for that particular class meeting (with reminders of the course location, if applicable), so they can participate. See "Use SmartEvals response rate-related tools" for more details on getting and using QR codes and emails to students through SmartEvals.
  • Plan regular reminders: Make sure reminding the students to fill out the survey for your course is a regular habit while course evaluations are open. You can also remind the students in different ways (e.g., on the opening/closing presentation slide, verbally announce, include in course “Announcement” in the Moodle course page, emails through your Moodle course or Loyola Outlook account, etc.). 
  • Reiterate to students that their responses are anonymous: It is very important that students understand that their responses are anonymous so that they will feel comfortable being honest without fear of repercussions.
  • Do you need to know who participated? Although SmartEvals does not allow instructors to identify which students participated, as needed, you can request that students take a screenshot of their SmartEvals dashboard that includes their name, your course’s tile, and “Completed” under that tile – and then share that with you (via email, Moodle, or any additional way you specify to them).

Use SmartEvals response rate-related tools

  • Edit (as needed), print, and then pass out course-specific QR code handouts to your students as reminders or quick “links,” since they can use their smartphones to scan the QR code to get directly to your course’s specific evaluation page. Note: If you put this QR code in your Moodle course instead of printing it and handing it out to your students, be sure to update it from semester-to-semester since it is a different code each time.
  • Check your emails from OIR/SmartEvals that are sent directly to you throughout the evaluation period, which include links to your QR codes and current response rates for each course.
  • Log in to SmartEvals to view your dashboard and get real-time updates of the response rates in each course on the respective course tile.

Interpreting student comments

Big ideas from the following related articles

  • Prior to course evaluation completion, be clear with students about:
    • the course design/structure, policies, your expectations of students, etc. (e.g., syllabus)
    • as well as the "etiquette" of course evaluations for constructive feedback
  • Don’t take them personally
  • Do take them seriously (especially if the same thought is repeated by multiple students)
  • Consider the context (e.g., is this a course for freshmen, majors, general education requirement fulfillment, was it offered at 8am, is this your first time teaching this course, what interventions did you add between the last time you taught this course and how that might impact the evaluations, is this the first time you tried that intervention, etc.)
  • Translate student language to identify implications or align themes to areas of teaching excellence you want to target

Related articles

Don't wait until the end of the course to request feedback

Consider using early- or mid-course evaluations in your course

The SmartEvals system is only used to request feedback from students at the end of the course. However, there is nothing stopping you from checking in with your students earlier in the course so you can adjust, as needed/able, to address any of student feedback or concerns. Some quick and easy ways to do this are via a course assignment/quiz or anonymous surveys/responses written on index cards handed in at the end of the class meeting.

You can ask the same questions that are on the end-of the course survey (see Survey Form Setup to review questions) to evaluate any change in responses after your intervention(s) were implemented. Otherwise, think about using two or more of the following three general questions or the respective more specific versions below each:

  1. What HELPS your learning?
    • What am I doing that is helping your learning in this course?
    • What are you doing that is helping your learning in this course?
  2. What HINDERS your learning?
    • What am I doing that is hindering your learning in this course?
    • What are you doing that is hindering your learning in this course?
  3. What suggestions do you have to ENHANCE your learning?
    • What do you suggest I could do to improve your learning in this course?
    • What will you do to improve your learning in this course?

SmartEvals Training

The following videos are based on the original instructor dashboard in SmartEvals. Note that some features shared in the videos are unavailable at our institution. Additionally, there is a similar SmartEvals instructor walkthrough document for Loyola faculty. For a more detailed explanation of the SmartEvals features, please email OIR at survey@loyola.edu to let us know which features interest you and any specific questions you have.

Keep in mind that SmartEvals launched their redesigned, mobile-friendly instructor dashboard in summer 2023. Therefore, the videos and walkthrough document might not be up-to-date to match the current dashboard layout. The new instructor dashboard will include the same tools and features, but the look might be different and navigating to them will be different.

SmartEvals Instructor Training: Set-up to Improve Courses

SmartEvals Instructor Training: Use Reports & Tools to Improve