Student Ratings and Course Modalities

A Small Study in a Large Context


  • Chuck Dziuban Director, Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness- University of Central Florida
  • Patsy Moskal
  • Annette Reiner
  • Adysen Cohen



This article examines the impact of course modality on student evaluation of courses and professors. Data were collected through the Student Perception of Instruction end of course rating form at the University of Central Florida (UCF), which contains nine items and maintains student anonymity. The findings indicate that while course modality accounts for only 1% of the variance in student evaluations, there is strong internal consistency and reliability in the rating scale. The distribution of ratings showed a concentration of scores at the high end, resulting in a high variability coefficient. However, when the long tail of low ratings was removed, the mean increased and the distribution became more symmetric, affecting various psychometric indices. The correlation matrices among the items revealed a single factor solution for each modality, suggesting that students tend to rely on a general impression when rating their courses. The multidimensional scaling process identified underlying categories such as structure, course climate, engagement, and consideration, even though students did not explicitly differentiate these elements in their responses. The study concludes that course modality has minimal influence on overall student ratings, a finding consistent across different time periods, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Although a single factor captures students' general evaluations, underlying categories shape their responses. The article also presents a classification model that predicts student ratings based on the scale items. This research addresses the complex dynamics of student evaluations, highlighting the nuanced relationship between course modality, student perceptions, and the underlying factors influencing their ratings.

Author Biography

Chuck Dziuban, Director, Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness- University of Central Florida

Chuck Dziuban is Director of the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Central Florida (UCF) where he directs the evaluation of the distributed learning program. He has spoken on how modern technologies impact learning at more than 80 universities in the United States and throughout the world. In 2000, Chuck was named UCF’s first ever Pegasus Professor for extraordinary research, teaching, and service and in 2005 received the honor of Professor Emeritus. In 2005, he received the Sloan Consortium award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Online Learning by an Individual and became an inaugural Sloan Fellow in 2010. In 2012 the University of Central Florida established the Chuck D. Dziuban Award for Excellence in Online Teaching in recognition of his contribution to teaching and learning with technology.


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