University advocates CATS reports over NovaTeachers student reviews

Caitlin Murphy

While has become a valuable resource for many students during class registration, the organization and management of the Web site has raised concerns within the University community. is a subdivision of the popular Web site,, which allows students from many schools across the country to rate their professors and write reviews on their courses. 

It gives students the opportunity to read reviews of prospective teachers and their courses before committing to an entire semester in their classes. 

The Web site was created in 2002 by two University freshmen to allow students to choose their classes and professors more easily. 

According to Craig Wheeland, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, NovaTeachers also served to replace the outdated SGA system that was conducted as an in-class survey. 

For a while, NovaTeachers remained open to all Villanova students until questions about the content caused Web site administrators to restrict access to new Villanova students. 

Today, most underclassmen cannot access the site without using an older member’s user information. 

According to Wheeland, the main issue with NovaTeachers is that only a handful of students choose to comment on each teacher.

While the University does not play any role in regulating the Web site, they realize that teacher evaluations impact students’ course selections. 

To try and alleviate this problem, the University administers the Course and Teacher Surveys every semester for each course.

Created in 1997 by a committee of faculty and administrators, the CATS allow students to evaluate the professor and quality of instruction received. 

Wheeland said that the questions on the survey reflect how Villanova defines good teaching, and the qualities that it would ultimately like its faculty to possess.  

“We have about a 98 percent response rate for CATS since they are administered in the classes,” Wheeland said. “You’ll have a faculty member who might look unpopular based on what a few students say on NovaTeachers, but then you look at the CAT scores, and they have much stronger results.” 

While this may seem like an easy solution, not all faculty members choose to make their CATS publically available on Novasis. 

Because CATS play a part in a professor’s annual evaluation and their rank and tenure decisions, many choose to keep their results private. 

Privacy concerns are understandable, but this also poses obstacles for students.

“We don’t necessarily have anywhere else to look,” sophomore Thomas Garry said. “I don’t completely depend on NovaTeachers for registration, but it is nice to have somewhere to go to see what other students thought of a certain teacher since so many of the CATS aren’t available online.”

NovaTeachers reviews can be the only alternative for many students, and some find CATS insufficient when it comes to reviewing potential courses. 

“I would still want to have some insight on the teacher’s personality, or if the workload on the syllabus is manageable,” sophomore Kate Colasurdo said. “There may be some obviously biased reviews [on NovaTeachers] but the site is helpful overall considering we don’t have much of an alternative.”

While faculty members are always encouraged to publicize their scores online, many still choose not to, according to Wheeland. 

Considering most scores are favorable, this decision could be adversely affecting many faculty members. 

“The average rating in the colleges is 4.2 [out of 5] for quality of instruction,” Wheeland said. “That’s a very solid rating and indicates high quality teaching across the University. Unfortunately, the majority of faculty do not routinely make their CATS available, and that is a shame because I think the students would see how highly other students think of these teachers, and they would get a full view of what all the students in the class think, not just a few.”