As the time for registering for next semester’s classes looms, many students are unaware of the teaching methods or personalities of their teachers. For decades, students have chosen their classes simply from what they heard word of mouth. Before the computer age, students chose their classes that conformed to their bustling schedule.
With the implementation of on-line registration and an excess of classes to fit many different lifestyles, a new breed of rating systems comes where students grade their own professors.
Recently acquired by collegiate media giant MTV Networks, Ratemyprofessor.com has been the leader among the plethora of professor performance websites with its 6.6 million ratings of over 990,000 different professors.
The site boasts of reaching approximately 10 million students a year and over 150,000 students daily.
“It (ratemyprofessor.com) can help,” Natalie Reimers, a Yuba College student, said. “Many of my friends as well as myself have chosen our classes according to their teachers’ ratings though I know it is not entirely accurate because people have biased opinions.”
Ratemyprofessor.com shows 209 Yuba College District posted professors with ratings.
However, the question of accuracy is raised with the ratings that are displayed on the professors’ pages. These ratings have been considered by some professors to be highly biased.
“It (the ratemyprofessors.com website) is not a scientific study,” Greg Gassman, a Woodland College faculty member, said. “But it can be helpful if there are several students that rate and there is a trend in their comments. Keep in mind that instructors teach hundreds of students and ratemyprofessor.com only represents a very small percentage of these students.”
“Generally, I think the more information students have about classes and teachers the better,” Cay Strode, another Woodland faculty member, said. “But my feeling about websites like ratemyprofessor.com is that they are pretty superficial and limited in terms of the information they provide. I’d rather see students seek out an instructor during office hours, ask for a copy of the syllabus and the reading list, ask questions about how they grade and teach, etc. Ultimately, that kind of specific information will be more useful to students as they choose which classes and teachers to take.”
Some professor websites have become platforms for students to voice their political opinions or personal tastes rather than providing constructive criticism of professors or helpful tips for fellow students.
With so many opinions available for public view, many are worried about the reputations of the professors in question. Retaliatory statements can sometimes create bad blood between students and teachers.
“It’s probably not accurate in terms of being totally accurate,” Edward Davis, a Yuba College dean, said. “It is pretty subjective and more likely to be negative. I don’t see how it could be useful; one student’s subjective view could be much different from another. It seems like it is used to retaliate against teachers or like listening to gossip. It has the potential to be detrimental to professors.”
Whether students believe the hype surrounding ratemyprofessor.com, or write it off as highly biased ranting, it has become one of the highest viewed sites among college students. It has an iconic place on the web that will probably not be displaced.