George Mason University uses the software Blue by Explorance for student evaluations of teaching (SETs). Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about SET administration at Mason.
Instrument and Question Personalization
What questions will be asked in the evaluation?
SET Instrument (implemented Spring 2022)
Can I add my own questions to the evaluation form?
Yes. Instructors can add up to five questions to the evaluations, tailored to the course and term. In addition, starting in spring 2022, there are three optional pre-written use of technology questions that instructors can choose to use for some of their personalized questions.
How do I add my questions to the evaluation instrument?
Instructors will be notified by email and Blackboard when the customization period is open prior to the start of the course. Adding Question Personalization in Blue
I forgot to add my personalized questions before the deadline. Can you reopen the survey so I can add my questions?
Once the question personalization (QP) task has closed in Blue, we are unable to reopen it or extend the deadline.
Administration and Response Rates
How will I know when evaluations are open?
You will be notified by email and Blackboard. There will be a link to Blue for you to view a list of your courses being evaluated for that term. You can also log in to your Blue account to view the default evaluation dates for your courses. Default evaluation dates can also be viewed via the semester administration calendar on our website.
Can I monitor response rates?
Yes. You will be able to monitor rates in Blue up until the evaluations close. Instructors are emailed links to the Response Rate Dashboard in Blue when evaluations open. The dashboard can also be accessed by logging into https://gmu.bluera.com/gmu. SET Response Rate Dashboard in Blue
How do I ensure high response rates for my courses?
When will evaluations be open?
For full-semester courses, evaluations will open 20 calendar days before the session end date (as listed in Banner) and will close 10 calendar days before the session end date. For part-of-term courses, the evaluations will open 6 calendar days before the session end date (as listed in Banner) and will close 1 day before the session end date. Please refer to the administration schedule on the main SET page.
Can I customize the evaluation open and close dates for my course?
Instructors are encouraged to direct requests to their designated Blue supervisor within their unit (e.g., department chair, course coordinators). Each unit decides if, and under what circumstances, they will modify the open and close dates for a course. Evaluation end dates cannot extend past the Banner course end date. OIEP will not make these modifications
Can I choose to use a paper evaluation?
No, Mason is no longer administering paper evaluations.
Why is my evaluation window closing before my last class?
The default evaluation end date is set so evaluations close before the final exam period. This default evaluation end date is based on the course end date as listed in Banner, and the final exam schedule on the Registrar’s website (https://registrar.gmu.edu/calendars/). Instructors are able to request evaluation date modifications from the Blue supervisor in their unit/department, and these modifications must be completed prior to the evaluation opening.
Evaluations are administered before the final exam period to minimize the likelihood that final grades will influence student feedback as per recommended practice and approval by the Effective Teaching Committee of the Mason Faculty Senate.
In Blackboard, I get the following message for my courses: There are currently no student evaluations of teaching for your courses. Can you open the evaluations for my courses?
Instructor’s student preview accounts in Blackboard does not work. You can view the response rate for your courses by clicking in the response rate monitor link in your email, or by logging directly into Blue.
My evaluation has closed, but I’d like to receive a higher response rate. Can you reopen the evaluation?
No, we are not able to reopen the evaluation in Blue once it has closed. OIEP administers the SET under guidance from the Faculty Senate Effective Teaching Committee which develops SET policies and standards, in conjunction with the Provost. This includes evaluation start and end dates. At their request, student evaluations of teaching are not open during final examination periods. In addition, the tool we use, Blue, requires that to restart an evaluation, the previous administration is eliminated entirely.
Results and Reports
When will I be able to access student evaluations?
Reports will be available in Blue 14 days after the course end date as listed in Banner. For the Law School, depending on term, reports will be available in Blue 30-50 days after the course end date as listed in Banner. For exact dates, visit the semester SET Administration Schedule located in the Resources section.
How can I access my past reports?
See the ‘Course Evaluation Results’ section on our main OIEP SET site on how to access reports using Blue. For results prior to Fall 2020, please contact your school/college or department to request these results.
Who will have access to student student evaluations of teaching once completed?
Instructors, deans, department chairs, and course coordinators will have access to the evaluation reports in Blue. Anyone listed as a supervisor in Blue (e.g. deans, department chairs, course coordinators) will have access to all of the evaluations for their unit. Instructors will only have access to their own evaluations.
I left Mason, but need my past teaching evaluation reports.
Please contact your former department or school/college at Mason to request copies of your past reports. OIEP will not be able to individually send these to you.
Will the student evaluations be made public as they were with Mason’s previous hybrid process of paper and online evaluations?
Yes, we have created a results dashboard for campus use. Visit the Student Evaluations of Teaching Response Rates and Results page to access this dashboard.
Can my evaluations results be released earlier than scheduled?
It is not possible to release any results early. To assure students that final grades will be submitted before evaluation results are released to instructors, results will be published 14 days after the course end date, which closely aligns with the Registrar’s Office deadlines for submitting final grades (https://registrar.gmu.edu/facultystaff/tools/grading/).
I did not receive a report for my course. Instead, in Blue it shows “threshold not met.” What does this mean?
At least three responses must be submitted in order for a report to be issued. If your course did not receive this minimum requirement, you will see the message “threshold not met”.
I received the automated email that I have reports available to view. I should have access to more reports, but I don’t see all the courses listed for this term.
Reports are released based on a determined schedule and not all at the same time. Please visit the semester administration calendar under the resources section of our SET homepage to view report release dates. Once all reports are released, you will see these listed in your Blue account under the reports section.
A student submitted an evaluation with negative comments and/or low scores that I feel mischaracterize my teaching/course. Can you remove this evaluation from being included in the final report?
No, we will not remove a student’s evaluation after submission, nor edit any negative comments or scores. It is not possible for OIEP to verify the accuracy of student feedback. We recommend contacting your department chair to discuss your concerns about the evaluation in question.
Cross-Listed and Courses with Multiple Instructors
I co-teach a course. Are instructors evaluated separately?
Yes. Students will be asked to complete separate evaluations for each instructor. Please verify with your department that information is Banner is up to date to ensure the appropriate instructors are evaluated.
I am one of multiple instructors of record for a course, but should not be included in the evaluations. Is there a way not to have an evaluation issued for me?
Yes. For that course, the department would need to assign the instructor 0% responsibility as the instructor of record in Banner prior to the evaluations opening.
I am teaching a course which is cross-listed with another course. If I want to add personalized questions, do I need to add these to just one of the sections or all associated courses?
Instructors need to add their customized questions to all individual cross-listed sections.
How many students need to be enrolled in my cross-listed sections for an evaluation to be administered?
The total number of students enrolled in all the associated sections of a cross-list combined must be at least 3. Blue displays each section of the cross-list separately in a user’s account, but the final report will be reported as one combined course.
How many student responses must be received in my cross-listed sections for a report to be issued?
Across the associated sections of a cross-list, a total of at least three responses must be submitted in order to generate a report.
Can you issue individual reports for each course in the cross-list instead of one combined report?
No, cross-listed courses are reported as one course, we do not issue separate reports for courses which are cross-listed together.
How can I be added to Blue as a supervisor for my unit?
OIEP sends a list of current Blue supervisors to units at the beginning of each semester requesting any additions or deletions along with a deadline for submitting the changes. Changes cannot be made in Blue after this process is complete and any subsequent requests will go into effect for the next semester. All requests must be made by the department.
I recently was added as a supervisor in Blue. How can I access the evaluation reports for prior semesters?
Your access to reports begins in the semester in which you were added. We are not able to retroactively add you to a prior semester. Contact another current supervisor in your department to have them share with you any earlier reports.
I received an email about reviewing the courses set for evaluation in my department, but not all the courses offered are listed. Why can’t I see all of my department’s courses for this semester?
Courses are displayed by part of term/Banner course end dates, and not all courses for your department will display at the same time. Remaining courses offered by your department can be seen approximately two weeks prior to the default evaluation start date.
Why are emails about Blue and SETs showing up in the ‘Other’ tab of my Outlook inbox?
Automated Blue emails may be getting filtered by your Outlook mailbox into an ‘Other’ folder instead of your ‘Focused’ folder. To ensure all communications are received, please right-click the message and select ‘Always Move to Focused’ so that all future messages from Blue will be delivered to the ‘Focused’ folder.
Note: Focused Inbox studies the history of your email use, and takes into account the types of messages you receive, the content of those messages, and the users you communicate with the most. It then determines which emails you are most likely to read and respond to and places them on a centralized list. You can then switch between this list and another one, labeled “Other,” containing all of the emails that do not meet its standards. Outlook’s sorting algorithm is not always perfect. By moving certain emails from ‘Other’ to ‘Focused’, Outlook will adjust its algorithm accordingly.
I’m getting an error/bad request message when trying to access the Blue site.
This may be a cookies/cache issue. Please try logging in on a different browser, or clearing your browsing cache/cookies. If you still have issues accessing the site, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.