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CIS Policies

The Course Instructor Survey (CIS) has been administered at the end of each semester since the mid-1960s. These surveys provide instructors with valuable student feedback about classroom experiences and associated teaching/learning approaches. The surveys are also used to provide feedback to administrators about the effectiveness of a faculty member’s teaching and student rapport. This information, along with a teaching portfolio and peer review of course materials, is used in promotion and tenure decisions. The CIS office is also guided by House Bill 2504, specifically Texas Education Code 51.974 "Internet Access to Course Information" which states: (h) Institutions of higher education included in this section shall conduct end-of-course student evaluations of faculty and develop a plan to make evaluations available on the institutions website."  In order to provide the highest level of accuracy, the following processes and procedures have been adopted by the University and the CIS Office. The policies are categorized by timeline.

General CIS Guidelines

  1. It is a University requirement that all classes defined by House Bill 2504 and other courses organized by the Registrar's office in FaSET (e.g., graduate, undergraduate) be surveyed every semester, including summer, using an approved CIS form, which is generally either the CIS Basic Form or the CIS Expanded Form.
  2. CIS information conforms to Student Information System (SIS) data and is received from FaSET in the aspects of: Instructor of Record, Unique numbers and groupings of unique numbers, which courses are organized and which are Individual Instruction (II).
  3. All CIS paper surveys are to be anonymous and administered by someone other than the instructor or TA. Instructors and TAs should not be present during the evaluation, nor should they see the completed surveys until grades have been officially reported. Each college/school/department is responsible for its internal Course Instructor Survey administrative plan. 
  4. The CIS office does not alter or delete student responses whether in paper or electronic format.
  5. The results of the Course Instructor Surveys, including the handwritten comments by students, are official University records and are ultimately managed by the University. As official University records, they are subject to provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), Texas Open Records Act (TORA), and the Records Retention Schedule.
  6. All CIS documents whether in paper or electronic form are official University documents, and are available to the public upon request in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. The Texas Attorney General is responsible for enforcing and interpreting the Act and has held that handwritten student comments are exempt from disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act because handwriting is identifiable, and personally identifiable information about students is confidential pursuant to federal law. Moreover, the University is not under obligation to type those comments that might make them available.
  7. Electronic CIS (eCIS) typed student comments are subject to open records requests after review and redaction, as are any hand written student comments that are subsequently typed by a faculty member or department.

Preparing the Course Instructor Survey

As you prepare to request Course Instructor Surveys, the following are a few CIS procedures to consider:

  1. Approximate to the 12th class day of the fall and spring, and the 4th class day of the summer semesters, we will send email notification to faculty, department chairs, and CIS department contacts informing them of paper and electronic CIS (eCIS) procedures.
  2. Formally appointed Teaching Assistants and Assistant Instructors are eligible to be reported in Faculty and Student Electronic Tracking (FaSET). If a college/school/department wants to track its TAs/AIs, it will need to enter them into FaSET system by the 12th class day. The CIS departmental contacts must manually add any TAs and AIs through the online request system that are not in the FaSET.
  3. An instructor may utilize the "Optional Questions Provided by Instructor" section on paper CIS to collect data for up to 20 multiple-choice items. Results from these additional items will not be a part of official CIS results and the instructor must retain a copy of his/her questions in order to interpret the results.
  4. If an instructor wants an unofficial survey anytime during the semester, he or she should use an alternative means to collect feedback (e.g. Canvas online survey tool) for that purpose.
  5. Items 1-5 on all Basic and Expanded series forms were created and mandated by UT System in 2013. Seven additional items, which are also present on all Basic and Expanded series forms, were approved and mandated by UT Faculty in 2014. Together, these comprise the UT Austin mandated "Core 12" items present on all Basic series forms (Items 1-12) and Expanded series forms (Items 1-7, 13, & 18-21) which were implemented in Fall 2014. It is not within the purview of the CIS office to change questions on any of the forms.
  6. CIS paper surveys with an instructor name that does not match the name on the label will not be processed.
  7. CIS paper surveys with multiple instructor names will be processed for the instructor whose envelope they are returned in only.
  8. CIS must receive a dean’s request for new or modified college-wide supplemental forms at the beginning of the fall semester in the academic year before the planned implementation semester (ex: planned implementation: FA11, CIS must receive the request by FA10). Requests for forms for individual courses or instructors will not be fulfilled.

Requesting Surveys

For two weeks each semester the administrative site is open to accept survey requests. These procedures address when and how those requests can be made.

  1. The opening date for the CIS request system is contingent on when the University-wide course data is received from FaSET. The date is set with enough time for the data to be received and tested for compatibility prior to the opening of the Official CIS Request Period.
  2. The closing date for the Official CIS Request system is 10 business days after the opening date, except for summer sessions. The closing date will be enforced to allow the CIS Office sufficient time to prepare, pack, and allow departments to retrieve surveys before the survey period begins.
  3. When making a request, only the following aspects may be changed: (1) Survey Request types: None, Paper, and Electronic (2) Survey form selected: the Basic form, Expanded form, and other forms approved by your college or school.
  4. Instructors may choose to administer either a paper CIS or an electronic CIS (eCIS), but not both.
  5. Only courses with unique numbers from the Registrar’s Office may be surveyed electronically (eCIS). 

Administering Surveys

The following policies are designed to regulate the administration of the surveys and help avoid common errors that impact results for the instructor.

  1. Colleges/schools/departments are responsible for management of official CIS paper surveys at three points: a) the survey administration phase, b) the internal distribution of results, and c) the document retention phase.
  2. The official survey administration period is the last two weeks of each long semester and the last week of each shorter summer session. When authorized by the department, paper surveys may be requested and conducted prior to the official survey period to accommodate special circumstances.
  3. Bar-coded labels are printed from the CIS request system. The bar-coded labels are put on paper CIS packets to ensure monitoring and inventory of the packets. These labels should not be altered in any way.
  4. If an instructor and a TA or multiple instructors are each evaluated in the same class period, each survey should be administered separately. Do not distribute two or more surveys simultaneously.
  5. In the case of multiple instructors, the students should be explicitly informed of the instructor they are expected to evaluate with each survey. For paper surveys the name of the person on the packet and the course information should be displayed where it is visible to all. For electronic CIS (eCIS) the information is at the top of the page and students are forced to review their responses before being able to submit.
  6. Instructors who teach individual students will require special arrangements with their department contact for the student to complete the paper survey form. As with all administered paper CIS form the instructor should not see the completed survey form before processing by the CIS department.
  7. Departments should establish a secure place for surveys to be dropped off after hours so that the department can maintain the inventory and provide better protection of confidentiality. As an alternative, a CIS drop-box will be located within the Sanchez Building (SZB), suite 563, located at 1912 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712. For inventory control, the CIS Office staff will check-in each survey packet retrieved from the drop box each day.

Results and Reporting

The following processes and procedures are intended to ensure survey data integrity and maintain proper handling and reporting of survey data in compliance with the Texas Public Information Act and FERPA guidelines.

  1. Departments must return completed surveys to the CIS office for processing within two weeks of the last class day. Any paper packet received after this deadline will only have frequency counts and will not be recognized. Electronic CIS (eCIS) closes at 11:59PM on the last class day.
  2. CIS will process all packets returned to the CIS office except those that have been altered. Examples include but are not limited to those that have an unofficial label, have mixed forms, have forms from separate classes in the same packet, or have instructor names switched on the original packets.
  3. A unique number grouping whose configuration is changed will remain a recognized record provided the constituent unique numbers remain consistent.
  4. Unprocessed surveys do not produce recognized results for either the instructor or the University’s official data records. Frequency counts may be requested when a packet is not able to be officially processed.
  5. Faculty members may request that survey packets be rescanned or electronic CIS (eCIS) results reviewed for perceived incorrect results. The CIS office must be contacted by the second Friday of classes of the following semester in order to rescan paper surveys or review eCIS results. Any requests for scanning after this deadline must be made by the dean or chair and will produce a frequency count only. The frequency count data will not be included in CIS data. A cover memorandum will be prepared and accompany the frequency count report. It will state the reason for the frequency count report and that it will not be included in the aggregated data.
  6. To the extent the completed Course Instructor Survey forms contain FERPA protected information, access to these CIS paper surveys must be controlled to protect information from disclosure to third parties. Only persons performing a legitimate supervisory or educational task may view hand written student comments. Legitimate supervisory and educational tasks include annual reviews, three-year reviews, promotion and tenure reviews, post-tenure reviews, and improving teaching.
  7. Regardless of when a survey is requested or administered, CIS results are released after the Registrar's Office grade reporting process is completed. CIS returns provisional paper results by department as each department is completed and checked. Electronic CIS (eCIS) provisional results are available 2 days after official grade submission deadline. All officially recognized results (paper and electronic) are viewable approximately the third Friday of the next semester. Every effort will be made to adhere to this schedule.
  8. In compliance with Texas House Bill 2504, numerical survey results are posted online for the university community and the public.
  9. CIS results with fewer than five respondents will not be displayed.

Retention Schedule

The University has a records retention policy of 10 years and this affects CIS in the following ways:

  1. Departments will be advised that the current university records retention period is 10 years and original paper CIS surveys should be stored for that duration. During this time, the designated custodian is responsible for retaining and securing the records. Departments may convert master records from a paper to an electronic format. Visit the University guidelines on records management for more information.
  2. The department may delegate to each faculty member the responsibility of maintaining the master paper CIS records for the institution, whether as original paper forms or as scanned copies. Upon the request of the administration, the faculty member will make these surveys available for use in the reviews of the faculty member. We will advise departments that when a faculty member terminates his/her employee relationship with the university, the department is responsible for taking over custodial responsibility for the official CIS paper surveys and handle them in accordance with university policy for official records. Regardless of where a government document is stored, it remains the property of the State of Texas. As such, the University has the right to determine the location or repository where it will be stored. The official state record document must remain retrievable from the time it is created until its final disposition. The documents must be maintained for no more than 10 years per UT Records Retention Schedule.
  3. CIS paper surveys are official University documents and the act of delivering them to individual faculty members does NOT make the paper surveys personal property. Any copies (sometimes referred to as “convenience copies”) of the original CIS paper surveys are still University property and NOT the property of the faculty member.
  4. The CIS office will advise departments that the original CIS paper surveys, including convenience copies, must be destroyed following the official approval process at the end of the retention period. For more information, view the guidelines for Departmental records retention.