Finding Refuge Through Rates: Is RateMyProfessors.com a Reliable Source?

In conjunction with the impending dates of registering for the 2020 Spring Semester courses, some students may want to take a gander at a popular reference source for college/university students: RateMyProfessor.com, a website in which North American and certain UK students are granted the access to other students’ ratings of professors and campuses alike. 

 

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With over 19 million ratings across a board of 1.7 million professors and covering over 7,500 institutions, this may be something that just about any average, curious student would utilize as a ‘proper’ online resource. Though, one should keep in mind that just like any other public reference source, the credibility and trustworthiness must be thoroughly examined. When taking the website’s magnitude into account, there is a vast amount of commentaries and reviews from a plethora of college students, so it is very likely to find a somewhat sufficient thread on a particular class or professor.

 

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 Firstly, the benefits of the website: On one end, college students are bestowed with first-hand opinions about potential professors and colleges in accordance with their own personal, academic needs and preferences. Otherwise, this site provides students with digital teacher evaluations, consisting of millions of ratings that have been collecting for over a decade. And, of course, it is also readily available, online, and is right at a student’s fingertips.

 

There are also limits to using RateMyProfessors. When creating a review for a professor, one only has narrowly-defined features when selecting certain ‘tags’ for them; to name a few examples of these would be what the site defines as a professor’s ‘easiness,’ ‘clarity,’ and ‘helpfulness.’ Categories like so are quite lackluster when it comes to the validity or justification of a review. The effectiveness of a professor’s teaching style is multifaceted. And for that reason, the assessment of it should be founded on more fruitful measures, such as how well students master what they learn in the professor’s class, how well-prepared the professor is, or how rigorous, relevant, and resonating the professor’s courses are.

 

Image 3However, the question remains: Is the source itself reliable? Whether or not this is for scholarly advances, personal interest, or whatnot, this is a fundamental approach or precaution to take when surfing the web for legitimate references. A faulty source often leads to false/factional information, which may ultimately spite someone in what s/he perceived as a long line of extensive work. Thus, treading lightly when surfing something of an editorial or partisan quality is very much needed. Another aspect to consider is also the question of whether one should holistically rely on the opinion of someone else, as in general, experiences are respective to the individual and differ among everyone.

 

 

 

Tips to Take When Assessing RateMyProfessors Reviews (Or really, any other opinionated source):

  1. Ensure the existence of the course(s). Make sure that the course is currently manifesting within the desired college/university and that the particular professor is actually teaching it.
  2. Critique the diction, grammar, and tone of the post. If a student is in any way serious, severely poor language could be a red flag that the review is inaccurate or simply from a sluggish, lazy student that isn’t taking this as a serious matter.
  3. Evaluate the bias and foci. Look out for utterly negative posts. (E.g., “This professor sucks..” or “Too much writing”) The majority of honest reviews will have a good mix of positive and negative aspects of the course and professor.
  4. Pay attention to sample size. Just like in any other matter, statistical or not, the amount of reviews for a professor is quite the considerable factor. There is a massive difference between a thread with a measly two contributions or a whopping fifty. Though, this can vary based on the institution’s size and the type of class; for example, more people are going to take an ENG101 course in comparison to a level 300-500 within a specific major. Also, know that a large community college and a small-scale university may be distinct and contrasting in their particular portion of reviews. 
  5. And most of all: Remember that most personal experiences are subjective, so don’t take another’s opinion wholeheartedly. For all one may know, the most loathed professor to one may be the equivalent to the teacher of the century for another. So, take this (and other websites) by a grain of salt and make sound judgments upon it!

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1 Comment

  • Interesting analysis. Also important to keep in mind that formats such as this tend to invite vocal minorities on both ends. The ultra passionate who love a professor and the ultra spiteful who want their reputation in the ground. The average student with an average opinion of the professor probably will not take the extra time and effort of submitting a review. Great job!

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