History of course evaluations

Transition to electronic delivery

Waterloo Engineering ran a small-scale trial of a campus-built course evaluation platform in fall 2015. The platform functioned as expected and response rates remained stable, prompting the faculty to transition all course evaluations from paper-based to electronic delivery for the winter 2016 academic term. A small number of courses meeting specific criteria were evaluated using the paper questionnaire.

Students and instructors access the course evaluation system by visiting the eValuate website (login required). This video demonstration of the eValuate platform shows the student view and functionality of the electronic course evaluation platform. And the reviewing course evaluation results in evaluate video demonstrates what instructors see when they review their course evaluation results. Please see the Electronic Evaluation Instructor Guidelines (PDF) for full details.

Evaluate logo

The method of delivery was the only change made in winter 2016; the questions, evaluation dates, procedures on evaluation day, and the processing, use and sharing of results data continue to adhere to long-established practices.

UW Course Evaluation Project Team (CEPT)

To support the Outstanding Academic Programming theme in the University of Waterloo's Strategic Plan, the CEPT was established in 2014. Reporting to the associate vice-president, academic, the CEPT was made up of student, staff, and faculty representatives and undertook the following activities:

  • Examined the various administrative, logistical, technological and cultural issues pertaining to course evaluations at the University of Waterloo
  • Identified best practices concerning all aspects of course evaluations
  • Considered the implications of adopting these best practices in relation to uWaterloo's Policy 77, the MOA, and faculty annual performance evaluations
  • Assessed the feasibility of designing a common core survey instrument, with customizable sections at the Faculty, department or instructor level
Sign that reads change ahead

The 2017 CEPT final report included recommendations for the administration, accessibility, security, and maintenance of a new course evaluation process, along with a draft version of proposed campus-wide core questions. These recommendations were in alignment with those put forward by the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario in its 2012 Audit of University Undergraduate Teaching Quality (PDF).

The CEPT completed student focus group testing with Engineering students in spring 2018, and a pilot test of the revised core questions was completed in fall 2018.

In June 2019, a dedicated web site was established to more broadly share the progress of the Course Evaluation Project.

Questions asked

Undergraduate Questionnaire

  • 18 questions prompted students to assess characteristics of the instructor (Q1-10) and characteristics of the course (Q11-18)
  • Most questions were A-weighted wherein A=100 B=75 C=50 D=25 E=0
  • Questions 6, 11, and 12 were centre-weighted so that A=25 B=50 C=100 D=50 E=25
  • Question 10 appraised the overall quality of the teaching
  • Question 17 appraised the overall quality of the course

The table below outlines the revisions that had been made to the course evaluation questions over time. While we know that course evaluations were administered even before 1972, we don't know exactly when they began or what questions were included on the first course evaluation questionnaire. The final iteration of undergraduate questions were in use from fall 2001 to fall 2021.


Revisions from Prior Version

prior to 1972 to Spring 1987 (PDF)

It's not known how many revisions were made during this period

Spring 1997 (PDF)

This version was administered using a Scantron questionnaire that bore a close resemblance to the current version
Q1 (instructor's presentation): revised descriptors
Q2 (instructor's resopnse to questions): revised descriptors
Q5 (instructor aproachability): revised text
Q10 (overall quality of teaching): revised text and descriptors
Q17 (overall quality of course): revised text

Fall 2001 (PDF)

Q10 (overall quality of teaching): revised descriptors
Q11 (difficulty): revised weighting (change to centre-weighted)
Q16 (value of tutorials): revised descriptors and weighting (no longer centre-weighted)
New question (# of classes attended): added as Q18

Fall 2011 (PDF)

Statement (nomination for teaching awards): added to page 2

Winter 2016: moved to electronic delivery (current)

Statement (nomination for teaching awards) removed
Opportunity to provide comment after each question

Winter 2022 Undergraduate Questionnaire replaced by SCP core questions

Graduate Questionnaire

  • 10 questions prompted students to assess the instruction and the course
  • Most questions were A-weighted wherein A=100 B=75 C=50 D=25 E=0
  • Questions 3, 4, and 10 were centre-weighted so that A=25 B=50 C=100 D=50 E=25
  • Question 9 appraised the overall quality of the course.

The graduate course evaluation process was implemented on a trial basis in fall 2005. During the trial period, evaluations were not mandatory, and instructors volunteered to participate. At the end of the trial, the evaluation process was formalized, the questions were set, and the first full implementation of course evaluations for graduate courses took place in winter 2007. As a result, any comparisons of more recent results with pre-2007 results must take into account the differences between the survey instruments.

Term Introduced

Revisions from Prior Version

Fall 2005


Winter 2007

Q1 (course goals): revised
Q2 (course description): revised
Q3 (fair evaluation): revised, moved to Q8
Q4 (instructor enthusiasm): removed
Q5 (quality of instructor's presentation): no change
Q6 (overall course rating): revised, moved to Q9
Q7 (instructor's overall proficiency): revised, moved Q6
Q8 (course load): scoring changed, moved to Q10
Q9 (academic level – difficulty): revised, moved to Q4
Q10 (audit/credit): moved to page 2, excluded from scoring
New question (academic level: workload): added as Q3
New question (instructor's insights and explanations): added as Q7

Winter 2016: moved to electronic delivery (current)

Opportunity to provide comment after each question

Winter 2022 Graduate Questionnaire replaced by SCP core questions