IASystem Course Evaluations

Across the nation, many institutions of higher education are moving to online course evaluations to save time in class, to align with online offerings, and to offer learner choice in where and when to respond. The noted Northwestern University study (Hardy, 2003) sheds light on use of online evaluations and moved Northwestern to full implementation for all courses. Programs at UW Tacoma are now using online evaluations for online, hybrid and many on-ground courses.

The Office of Educational Assessment is responsible for providing assessment support to all University of Washington colleges, schools and programs. OEA administers the UW-developed Instructional Assessment System (IASystem) to collect, archive and report both online and paper course evaluations across the UW system. 


Whether collected on paper via bubble-mark forms or online, IASystem manages the results in a central UW repository with multiple levels of security. For online evaluations, trained coordinators in each department have access (via UW NetID) to configure surveys for each course.They specify which courses and which instructors are to be evaluated, which evaluation form is to be used, whether evaluations are online or on paper, and when instructors will be able to view reports.  They set open and close dates for online evaluations and request pre-printed cover sheets for evaluations using bubble sheets.  Coordinators also distribute and collect the forms and pencils for paper evaluations.

For online evaluations, IASystem sends an email to the students in a course at their @uw.edu address. The email includes a link to the evaluation.  Access to the evaluation is controlled by UW NetID; only students enrolled in the course are allowed to respond and each student may respond only once.  

ALL results - online and paper:

  • are anonymous  
  • available to instructors only after the course ends and grades are submitted.

Summary reports for each course are distributed to instructors, as well as directors and deans, by departmental administrators once the quarter ends. Reports for online evaluations include open-ended student comments.  For paper evaluations, student comments are not captured digitally but returned on paper directly to the instructor. Please see the IASystem About page for more information on course evaluations at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Note: Online evaluations standardly receive lower response rates, but richer feedback, than paper evaluations. To mitigate low response rate, standard practice is to send reminders and to offer incentives to students. Reminders are sent via the IASystem, but are most effective when coming from instructors.

Some university systems release grades earlier, others release small gift cards or bookstore credit via lottery as UW Tacoma recently began with our student surveys. UW is not considering these options, but supports incentive via small extra credit IF response remains anonymous. To do so, UW Tacoma encourages instructors to ask students to COPY/POST the most effective question asked (not their response) or to ask students to POST a better question that was NOT asked in the course evaluation. This phrasing assures anonymity, increases response rate and values student feedback regarding assessment.