Augustine: Students should be able to complete CTECs for dropped courses

Kathryn Augustine, Assistant Opinion Editor

At the end of each academic quarter at Northwestern, every student receives an email from the University’s Course and Teacher Evaluation Council Office to complete course evaluations. These evaluations, dubbed CTECs by students, are completed digitally in the form of a survey. The survey asks students to report about the course workload, efficacy of instruction, whether the course was appropriately challenging and whether the course stimulated interest in the given subject. Additionally, there may be open response questions that allow students to detail their own experiences and provide feedback and praise for the professor.

Students can access CTECs prior to registration for the next quarter’s courses to gauge whether they are interested based on the responses of others. It’s immensely helpful to ponder the opinions of your peers to make an informed decision.

However, Northwestern only permits students who completed the entire course to complete evaluations. This means that the opinions of students who decided to drop or students who withdrew at the end of the quarter are not reflected. While reasons for dropping and withdrawing can be circumstantial and personal, someone’s motive for unenrolling may be tied to the class and professor itself. Because students who drop are not allowed to fill out CTECs, future students and professors will not receive this important perspective.

This means that the CTECs are biased. What if a significant proportion of students drop a class and the students that remain present the course in a skewed, positive light? This will create a misrepresentation of the course that will ultimately propagate more students to drop when the course does not meet their expectations.

While dropping one course may not seem like a big deal, it can be the difference between full and part-time tuition, between graduating on time or continuing another quarter. Therefore, students should be able to see why others dropped classes in order to determine if the class is worth it.

It’s not logical to ask students who took a course for just a week and dropped to fill out an evaluation. Their input will not be particularly valuable since they barely experienced the structure of the course and the manner of instruction. But students who drop after a prolonged period — after at least a month of class — deserve to be heard.

For instance, I was enrolled in a course last spring quarter for over a month, but I decided to drop after the first exam. When I met with the professor individually, the professor was condescending and refused to answer my questions. Since I dropped the course, I never vocalized that experience or communicated to students pondering that course that support from the professor is non-existent.

This reflects an overarching issue — professors continue to disregard students who are struggling and do not provide adequate assistance. We need to give students who drop or withdraw from a course the chance to explain their decision in order to make students deciding whether to enroll in that course aware.

Perhaps for some students, professor interaction and support is not a factor in their decision to register for classes. But for other students, they actively seek out courses where teaching assistants and professors help outside the classroom.

Combining the responses of students who dropped or withdrew with the responses of students who completed the course could be misleading. Therefore, Northwestern can create a separate tab on the CTECs platform that contains the survey responses of students who dropped or withdrew. What does the University have to lose by engaging more of its student body?

Northwestern students deserve to know what a course will look like. Students can avoid classes that are taught in a fashion that is not conducive for their learning style or may be too time consuming for their schedule. This means greater satisfaction with the course and academic success. To ensure that CTECs are honest and representative, Northwestern needs to encourage students who drop or withdraw to fill out evaluations, too.

Kathryn Augustine is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]​. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to ​[email protected]​. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.