Students will answer 3 questions: whether the class was interesting, how they rated the lecturer’s performance, and how they ranked the lecturer on a scale of 1 to 100.
Tel Aviv University is launching a pilot program of an app that allows students to rank their lecturers in real time on their cellphone or tablet. The pilot, initiated by the office of the dean of students, will begin next week in five courses in the faculties of humanities, the arts and the social sciences. All of the courses chosen are those in which the lecturer agreed to take part in the pilot, including a course taught by the dean of students himself, Prof. Yoav Ariel.
Students in the selected courses who sign consent forms will be able to start using the application, which will be turned on by the teacher when he or she enters the classroom. In the last five minutes of the classes the students will receive a message asking them to answer three questions: whether the class was interesting, how they rated the lecturer’s performance, and how they ranked the lecturer on a scale of 1 to 100.
The students will be able to answer the questions for a half hour after they appear. Lecturers will have a tablet on which they can receive the rankings, which will be made anonymously. Students will also have the option of chatting with each other on-line about the class without the lecturer being able to see their exchanges.
Ariel says he is aware of the “noise” the program will make, but that changes in the world require changes in the relationships between lecturers and students. According to Ariel, “There is a variety of responses from rejection to enthusiasm. Some lecturers said ‘never’ and some students said it was a genius idea. Some students said it turned the classroom into a reality show.”
Ariel said that considering how much information comes to people through their smart phones, he did not want to miss the opportunity “to use the cellular channel to communicate with the student, after a long period of reports of alienation between lecturers and students.”
In explaining his approach to the app, Ariel said: “Teaching has always been based on faith. I am 67 years old now. My generation had faith in teachers. The relationship of the teacher to the student recalled the classic relationship in the covenant between man and God, or between a psychotherapist and a patient. I come to teach and convey information, but in the past 25 years, the whole thing has become commercialized. Students have become clients. This application comes to create a total revolution, you have to think anew about teaching. This is a social communications community and the dialogue is based on faith. Communication with students is critical for me.”
Ariel says real-time ranking of lecturers is only part of the change he wants to make on campus. He also wants to enable real-time critique of other university services.
“If, for example, there’s a QR code [which can call up a website] on a lecturer’s door, a student can write a report about a lecturer, or the dean of students can hear in real time about a teacher who is delaying writing a recommendation that a student really needs. They can also complain about the schnitzel in the cafeteria being fried in yesterday’s oil or books missing in the library for a paper you’re writing,” he said.
A first-year student in a course participating in the pilot said: “The university is exactly the place that should walk hand in hand with progress and the pilot does precisely that. During the semester, problems come up and when the time comes to fill out the assessment form for the lecturer, they are no longer relevant or have been forgotten. There’s no doubt I’ll take part in the pilot. To me, the student and the lecturer have to take part in the process of improvement and on-going learning.”
Another student said he opposed the pilot because he believes the immediacy of the ranking will reflect only the feelings of the students who are “bored during the class and find the time to mess with the application.” The student said he felt it also made the student’s opinions superficial. “I understand why it’s cool to vote with your smart phone but to me, if the dean’s office wants to get significant feedback, they should do it with serious surveys among students and not turn it into a reality show.”