Published: Oct. 30, 2017

As the faculty course questionnaire (FCQ) prepares for its fully online administration this fall, CU Boulder Today talked with Mary Kraus, vice provost and associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education, about key features of the transition.

Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Mary Kraus

Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Mary Kraus

Why are FCQs moving online?

Prior to moving online, the FCQ used 600,000-plus pieces of paper annually across the three participating campuses, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver. This outdated, paper-driven process does not align itself with the campuswide initiative toward sustainability. Not only is the paper process costly from an environmental perspective, but, due to the labor intensive scanning of each and every paper FCQ, the process is slow and tedious, and it’s costly in labor hours.

An online process will not only improve the speed and resources needed to run the FCQ process, it also will increase the ability to provide analytic support and timely reporting as the process becomes a stable and repeatable set of tasks. And that timely reporting capability serves faculty and students in equal measure.

Why has the FCQ administration window changed?

The FCQ Executive Committee, which had strong faculty representation, decided on an eight-day administration window, compared to the five-day paper administration, to provide students with additional time to complete the FCQ.

This gives students a full week, including a Saturday and Sunday, to complete their FCQs before the beginning of finals. The previous administration periods between online and paper FCQs were, in turn, longer and shorter than the new eight-day period, so we decided to pick a middle-ground time that averaged the previous administration time periods.

What will the new online reporting look like?

From an efficiency perspective, the new online platform will enable automation of the reporting process, which, starting with spring 2018 FCQ results, will decrease the time it takes to get reports to instructors.

From an effectiveness standpoint, the Office of Data Analytics (ODA), which is spearheading this project, will leverage its experience in data visualization to try new ways of presenting the FCQ data to make it easier for instructors and departments to actually use the feedback.

ODA is committed to improvement, and it expects that reporting enhancements will continue to occur as the office receives feedback from professors over the span of successive semesters. We expect to have new reports ready by late January 2018, and will then seek feedback from instructors on what ODA might do to make the new reporting easier to use and more informative.

In the end, this is really about helping faculty continue to refine, sharpen and improve their teaching—and that helps both faculty and, obviously, our students.

I’ve heard online response rates are lower; isn’t that a concern?

Response rates for the pilot were comparable to the rates we have seen with paper returns and in some cases exceeded them. In fact, the online platform allows us to reach a wider audience.

Paper FCQs were limited to students who were in class that day. If a student was sick and missed class that day, their voices would not be heard. We offered a series of strategies for the pilot professors to test and found, when those strategies were followed, response rates could be as high as 99 percent for a class.

Our primary suggestion is that professors provide time at the beginning of a class for students to respond to their online FCQs, just as they have done with paper FCQs in the past. This act alone greatly increases the response rate. Other suggested methods include:

  • Provide a whole-class incentive if a certain response rate is accomplished (e.g. 80 percent or higher). Possible incentives include: one free homework grade of 100 percent, one percentage point added to each student’s final exam grade or an opportunity to redo an assignment
  • Discuss with your class the value of FCQ feedback to you and how it is used in your courses and at your department level.
  • Seek earlier opportunities to gather student feedback using anonymous surveys. Then discuss this feedback with the class so students see that you value their feedback and act on it.

Will students provide meaningful comments online, from mobile devices?

Students have grown up using technology, including texting from a young age. Even if a student completes his or her FCQ during an instructor-provided window during class, they will be able to provide more qualitative feedback during the short time as opposed to writing out a written response on paper.

By reminding students their responses are anonymous to their instructors, many students might be more willing to provide feedback since they will not be writing comments.

The open comment section allows for longer answers, which was viewed positively by some pilot students.

Are we using new questions in fall 2017?

No. The FCQ will continue to use the same question set we have used for over a decade.

And that brings up a key point: While we will not be implementing a new FCQ presently, there is a need to address the key issues the FCQ Redesign Project identified as important in updating the questions. We will continue the process at CU Boulder of reviewing, vetting and eventually moving to a new set of questions, and we will involve faculty throughout that process. Expect to hear more about that effort in the coming semesters.

For more information regarding the FCQ Redesign Project, please visit www.colorado.edu/fcqredesign. To learn more about FCQ administration process and timeline, please visit www.colorado.edu/fcq.