Rate My Professors: Useful or Useless?

By: Traci Taylor
November 2012
The end of the semester is near and that indicates it is time to register for classes. Choosing classes is an important process for a college student; with many required courses and electives available, how is a student expected to narrow down their options?

Ratemyprofessors.com offers a unique way of evaluating professors and the classes they have previously taught. The homepage gives the option of either looking up a specific professor or school.

When Millersville University is typed into the search bar it comes up with an overall professor rating of the school and the amount of professors the university has to offer. The school has a rating of 3.7 out of 5. These ratings are based off of previous students that have chosen to rate their professors and leave reviews.

The numbers that are given are based off of opinion and not actual facts. It is up to the individual looking at the site to take the ratings with precaution. The real question at hand is whether or not college students take this site into consideration when registering for classes.

A survey was conducted that consisted of  33 college students from different schools including Millersville University. The survey asked, “What do you look for when looking up professors on Rate My Professors?” The options for the survey were pertaining to the ones given for each professor on the site: overall quality, clarity, helpfulness, easiness, hotness, the color of the smiley face, or I’ve never used Rate My Professors before.

Results of the survey were balanced. Fifteen out of the 33 students asked said they observe the overall quality of the professor. This is the average of the ratings that the student may have left for the professor when evaluating them on the website. Five of the students answered that they look more towards the easiness rating of the professor. This is of course based off of whether or not other students found this professor to be considered an easy “A”. Three of the students answered that they look for the helpfulness rating. Two found clarity to be the rating they look for and only one student from the survey chose to acknowledge the color of the smiley face. The hotness option was not picked by any of the students that were asked to take the poll.

The overall rating of the professor is based upon the total average that previous students have chosen when reviewing the professor. The other ratings (helpfulness, clarity, easiness) are all calculated the same way. The smiley face that appears next to the name of the professor varies amongst three colors: yellow for good quality, green for average quality, and blue for poor quality. The higher the rating of the professor depends on the color of the face. If the professor is good looking a chili pepper is next to their name under the category “hot.” According to the survey given most students are not concerned with the hotness factor when considering classes and it seems it is only there for entertainment.

Seven students answered they had never used Rate My Professors before when registering for college courses. Emily Silver, a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, said “I totally forgot about that website! I used it in High school but haven’t since then. I might start to.” Some students may choose not to use the website, while others like Silver simply forgot the website existed.

Professors are categorized into their department on the website so if a student would just rather browse their own major, that option is available. Next to the department classification is the amount of ratings that have been left for that professor as well as their overall rating.

Clicking on a specific professor lets the student see the comments and ratings left anonymously by other students. Some of the comments left are articulate and helpful, while the negative ones are questionable in their reliability. The ratings that each student gives are provided alongside their comment. Right beside the comment section is a tab for professor rebuttal. It gives the professor a chance to refute or take a stance amongst what they feel are negative or untrue reviews.

“I’ve been using Rate My Professors every year I’ve been in college. I was never aware there was a section for professor rebuttal” said Kimberly Tracy, a student at West Virginia University. Tracy was among many other students that participated in the survey that were not aware of the professor rebuttal tab. The question still stands whether or not that would change the minds of students who choose to base their classes off of the website.

Registration is a stressful, yet important time in any college student’s life. RateMyProfessors.com is a way of reassuring students who chose to use the website that the class they are signing up for is with or without a quality professor, according to ratings by their peers. “I used it all the time. I would take classes based upon the results” said Jeanine Taylor an alumni of Rowan University. Rate My Professors is, according to Taylor and others, a vital tool in deciding what courses to register for.

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