Brandon writes: Choosing courses with the course evaluation data website

What classes will you take? Still not 100% sure? Neither am I, but here is a tool (available if you’ve been admitted to a degree program) that helped me make the choices a little bit easier: the new Harvard Extension Course Evaluation data website (student user name and password required). To access the course evaluation data from the main account page, follow my step by step screen-shot instructions here:

At the end of each course, students are asked to complete online evaluations of the class and instructor, and now, thanks to some diligent employees at Harvard Extension, all the numerical data from these evaluations has been tallied, organized and presented online for us students, adding one more layer to the decision making cake. We can now see student-generated online ratings for many extension courses, ratings of the individual instructors, and view how individual courses compare against the departmental benchmark. When shopping online for courses, previously we had only a few decision making tools: a short blurb about the course and, if lucky, a few friends’ reviews of the course, but now we can see the product of dozens of reviews covering a variety of pertinent topics from instructor “availability” to course “feedback”. In the photo gallery posted above I highlighted the “Instructor Summary” list, which is a particularly efficient (less mouse clicks) way  to view all the courses and visually compare the essential course and instructor rating data. Currently, the viewable data excludes some extension courses in the list because those courses are still building a bank of valuable feedback. But this is just the first launch of the course evaluation web data tool and as more students use this tool and see the value of the evaluations, the response rate may climb and the data could get better with every passing semester.

On the topic of course evaluations: If you are interested in ecology (the study of the density and distribution of plant and animal species and the interactions that determine their density and distribution A.K.A. how nature works), I highly recommend ENVR S-140, the summer session of Fundamentals of Ecology with instructor Mark Leighton and teaching assistant Jen Palacio (also available during this coming fall semester as ENVR E-140). The “Mark and Jen” duo rock together! Mark orchestrates hands-on outdoor field trips to hug trees (measure them) and smell flowers (observe pollination syndromes) on sunny days and Jen ensures every student gets the most out of each assignment by providing excellent feedback, making this a thoroughly  enjoyable (and challenging) summer school semester! But you don’t have to take my word for it, have a look at the Mark Leighton “Instructor Summary” detail image above, presenting data from 58 other students available on the Harvard Extension Course Evaluation data website.

Wishing you success this fall! -Brandon

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