Professor Rating Site Losing

Brittany Hayes, Reporter

Students research a number of things when they choose a semester’s worth of classes, what each class is about, how many tests and papers are involved and the course schedule, but they may make selections based upon a more personal criterion: who is teaching it.

Rate My Professor is a once popular website students use to check out professor ratings and reviews before they sign-up for classes, but the data may not be accurate or even up-to-date.

Dan Kimbrough, assistant communications professor, said his hands-on approach to teaching future media professionals changes every year, so a review from a few years ago may not accurately reflect the class.

“Video I has never been taught the exact same. If you read a review of how I did a course three years ago, it’s probably changed three times since then. We work in media, so my techniques have to change as new things come out, as technology changes,” he said.

Kimbrough said reviews may be helpful for students researching general classes, but they won’t always apply to higher level courses.

“Reading about how I did it last semester is almost of no use to you whatsoever. Maybe in a Survey of History of the World  101 (course), may be, but at a certain point you can’t do that above 100-200 level courses,” said Kimbrough.

Another problem with sites such as Rate My Professor is that many reviews speak about how easy a professor is, but that isn’t beneficial to students who want to learn, said Bryan Dewey, pro rata professor of English.

“I have checked reviews of colleagues and all of them have said, ‘Told great stories in class, gave an A just for showing up,” he said.

Kimbrough said while his teaching style may be tough, it is always in students’ best interest.

“My notion of evaluation is always, ‘Can the students do what they are supposed to do?’ as far as being able to shoot video and how we’ve trained them. Whether or not they like me is somewhat irrelevant,” said Kimbrough.

While students may want to check out Rate My Professor before they sign up, maybe to gauge workloads or other details, professors say the information isn’t of much value. It is also difficult to accurately judge a class based on few short sentences posted by someone motivated enough by love or dislike to take the time to write a post.

“Am I easy? I hope I’m not easy. If I’m easy, then I’m not challenging you mentally and you’re wasting your money. I don’t think the questions hit on what we really do, but I think it’s hard in any evaluative process to really come up with an assessment that is that pinpointed but can be used across the broad spectrum,” said Kimbrough.

Sophomore Rachel Barnhart said students ranting about professors on the site are just angry because of a bad grade they received, but it is the student’s responsibility to do the work.

“Some reviews say that a teacher is difficult, but then I’ve taken that class and received a good grade. It all depends on if the students want to do the work assigned to them,” said Barnhart.

There’s also the problem of students using Rate My Professor as more of a ranting space than any- thing else. Typical comments slam professors for the amount of hard work required to pass courses.

“Usually it comes down to if you got a bad grade or it was a tough class then you get a poor review. If it was an easy class and students were happy with how easy it was then you’re going to get a good review,” said Dewey.

Kimbrough agrees students use the site as a safe place to anonymously rant about how they felt about a course.

Some students and teachers alike would argue that Rate My Professor’s popularity has had a steady decrease in use. When the site first became available, students were actively posting, but now frequency of posts has declined. Some professors haven’t had any new ratings years.

“I also think that it has also peaked and there are far easier ways to have discussions online about what courses to take. Before social media was big, this probably played an important role. But with Twitter and Facebook and people tweeting in class, there are easier ways for students to get this information,” said Kimbrough.

Dewey has also noticed a steady decline of posts.

“It does seem to be less popular and less used. I haven’t seen any statistics on it, though. Before that it was just by word of mouth or through the grapevine, but I think, too, probably the popularity has waned. When it first started, it was a novel idea like, ‘Cool, I can rate my professor,’” said Dewey.

Barnhart said she uses the site but only to praise the good professors.

“I have posted a rating but never a comment mostly just for the good professors because I feel that if a professor is hard, then that rumor gets circulated around campus quickly whereas if they do a really good job, that isn’t as broadcasted,” said Barnhart.

There might be a more effective and easier way to find out which professors to take the more detailed teacher biographies on the university website.

“I think, usually, you can tell a good amount about the professor from their bio on their department websites but with adjuncts and not every professor having a bio anymore it’s not ideal. It would be nice if every professor was encouraged to do that more so you can tell just from their interests if you were interested in taking a course with them,” said Dewey.

Dewey said a college-specific site could work much better than Rate My Professors, but that depends upon the amount of time and energy faculty want to put into creating pages.

“I think it could more helpful if there was a school-specific site like that. It would be nice to somehow, if there could be more encouragement for students to participate, because right now the only people who really comment are people who really hated it or really liked it. You’re not going to waste your time for a professor that you just thought was decent,” said Dewey.

Professors also have the op- portunity to respond to student comments. Both Dewey and Kimbrough haven’t posted any sort of response, but they know of other professors who have, either on the site or by venting in their own personal web spaces.

“I have friends on Facebook who have gone off on students and their ratings on Rate My Professor before. They usually attack students’ grammatical errors and sentence structure, the idea that you hate me because I made you think and do things that were outside your comfort zone as far as education goes, even though that’s the purpose of education,” said Kimbrough.

Likewise, Dewey has known colleagues who have posted fake reviews of their classes on Rate My Professor in an effort to look better to future students and colleagues.

“A couple colleagues would have their friends write reviews for them so there’s no real way to really tell the legitimacy of the reviews. I could create a bot and have it write ten positive reviews for me on Rate My Professor.”

One thing profs are unlikely to do, however, is check the box that rates professors’ attractiveness or “hotness.”

“So students get to pick profes- sors based on how hot they are? Yeah, this is just asinine,” said Kimbrough.

Dewey said that criterion might influence students’ reviews.

“If you think your teacher is attractive, then you give a better review. It’s true though. It’s all about first impressions. If you’re attractive and good-looking, that student is going to give you a better review,” said Dewey.

He added that students may give poor teachers good reviews solely based on attractiveness.

“If you’re not that strong of a professor but you look good then a student of the opposite sex might be willing to be like, ‘Oh it’s okay,’ and I think that goes for anything in life. When choosing your boyfriend or girlfriend, if they look good they can get away with a little bit more. It’s the same with professors. If they have good looks or charm they can be excused,” said Dewey.

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