Over the fall 2017 semester, the Academic Affairs Committee has been working closely with the Faculty Senate to add course material questions to TRACE. These questions are designed to ask about the impact course materials, including both textbooks and supplemental materials (e.g. online homework codes), have on students’ learning.
The goal behind this is to provide more transparency to both students and faculty about the quality of the course materials that students are often required to purchase. Since TRACE results are made available to students on myNEU, students will be able to see which courses require the purchase of materials, as well as the purpose and usefulness of those materials. The hope is that by allowing students access to this information, they can make judgment calls on whether or not they should get the course materials and in what way they should purchase/rent/borrow them.
Additionally, this initiative provides transparency to faculty on whether or not students find the course materials they assign useful. It is not unusual for faculty to assign expensive textbooks that are not actually useful to students. In many cases, faculty members continue to do this because they have limited insight into the usefulness of the materials they are assigning. With the information provided by the new TRACE questions, faculty members can hopefully improve their course material selection, so that students are getting the most out of the materials they purchase.
Throughout the months of September and October, VP of Academic Affairs Driesman and his Director of Faculty Relations, Senator Howell, worked closely with the chair of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee, as well as other members of Faculty Senate leadership, to finalize the questions in time for them to be added to TRACE by the end of the fall 2017 semester. Senator Howell was crucial to this initiative by spearheading the communication and relationship management portion of the effort. Driesman took a more advisory role, where he collaborated closely with Senator Howell on generating and revising the various iterations of proposed questions.
After going through many iterations of the questions with Faculty Senate leadership and the Provost’s Office, involving numerous emails and multiple in-person meetings, the questions were finalized and proposed as legislation to the Faculty Senate. Driesman, Senator Howell, and Senator Liebert sponsored a corresponding piece of legislation in SGA’s Senate endorsing the addition of the questions to TRACE. Both pieces of legislation passed their respective bodies without additional amendments.
These questions will now be on TRACE in time for the end of the fall 2017 semester. The hope is that SGA and Faculty Senate can closely monitor the questions over the fall and the spring, with a chance to revise them based on their performance in those semesters. Not only will these questions provide valuable insight into course materials for both students and faculty, but also set a gold standard for future partnerships between the Faculty Senate and SGA. In the past, SGA has not been fully engaged with Faculty Senate beyond simply attending the Faculty Senate’s main meetings. This initiative has greatly strengthened the partnership between the two organizations and has set a tone for what will hopefully be a dynamic and fruitful relationship.