Last Updated on August 13, 2020 by blendtw
When it comes to choosing classes, students often turn to Rate My Professors to learn more about which professors and courses to take. However, with lack of accurate information and biased opinions, Rate My Professors isn’t as helpful as students think.
Class schedules are the bane of a college student’s existence. Creating a perfect one is impossible and picking professors is a gamble. Unless students can see the future, they won’t know if a class is going to be interesting or if the teaching style is going to be boring.
Students have to create backup schedules and sometimes even backups to the backup schedule. It’s unpredictable. The only way to get some insight into the process is by doing research.
There are a couple of ways students can guess at how a class will be. First, universities provide descriptions of courses, and departments post more specific information on their own websites. This usually helps students decide if the material will be interesting and something they want to learn.
The other way to gain perspective on a class is through other students. Turning to friends who have had the professor or taken the specific course before can be useful. However, with large universities, a friend may not have even heard of the one in question. So, students then turn to the “trusty” old site, Rate My Professors.
Rate My Professors is a website where anonymous users post reviews on professors and their courses so that others can gain insight. People have been using this site for over a decade, ranking quality and difficulty of the class on a scale of five with a brief explanation.
The problem with this site is that it’s really inaccurate. Relying solely on this information is a mistake. Students shouldn’t trust Rate My Professors, and here’s why:
1. Posts are outdated.
Sometimes, users haven’t posted about a professor in years. Julia Keefer from New York University has 6 ratings, the newest from 2010. Similarly, Michael Himes from Boston College hasn’t been rated since 2011.
These professors still teach at the universities yet they are being judged by opinions from ten years ago. Teaching styles, material, and people change over the years. It is inaccurate to trust opinions that are so old.
2.Opinions are the extremes.
When someone posts a review on a restaurant, they either loved it or had the worst dinner of their life. The same goes for Rate My Professors. Alan Fridlund from the University of California Santa Barbara is, as one student puts it, “a divisive professor. Some people love his humor and passion for the subject while others hate his politics.”
His ratings are all over the place. Some give him a 4.0 to 5.0 quality rating while others give him 3.0 or even a 1.0. They say he is a “Very funny guy, [and] makes what he talks about seem very interesting.”
However, a student also said, “I found many things he said to be quite inaccurate in his lectures. His Republican viewpoints often collided with his teachings, and he misinformed so many students.” With drastic viewpoints, Fridlund seems questionable. Which review should potential students for his classes trust?
3.Few ratings give good (or bad) overall reviews.
With any collection of data, the more input, the better the conclusion. Professors can have hundreds of ratings, which provides a more accurate judgment, but they can also have as few as three or less.
Cameron Myler from New York University has one rating, which happens to be a good one. This gives Myler an overall quality of 5.0. However her fellow colleague Jing Yang, also has one rating that gives her an overall quality of 3.0.
4.Professors have no reviews or a page.
Some professors don’t have any reviews at all, as is the case for Lisa Samuel from New York University. There are also times where they do not even have a page on the site, like Elena Kalodner-Martin from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This can make students jump to the conclusion that the professor is new to the school and lacks experience, which can deter them from taking the class.
5.The course isn’t reviewed.
Specific courses oftentimes don’t have any reviews, but the professor is rated on others. Judging them based on a different class is jumping to conclusions. They may teach a 100 level course in a completely different way than an upper-level one.
6.Users don’t provide details.
Students can be lazy. They want to help other college kids, but they don’t want to put in too much effort. Descriptions on Rate My Professors can be very short. For Harold Peterson from Boston College, his three reviews say, “Best professor ever,” one is blank, and, “Very easy. Don’t take anyone else for Principles of Economics.” Judging Peterson based on those few words is unfair.
If students are going to use Rate My Professors, they have to look beyond the site. They shouldn’t trust these anonymous opinions alone. University websites provide professors’ profiles through faculty directories. This gives more information on their qualifications, accomplishments, and personality.
Students can also ask classmates that they’ve worked with before. Asking others within a major, increases the likelihood that they have taken the course or had the professor. Alternatively, students can post in Facebook groups to see what other peers who’ve recently taken classes with the professor have to say.
In the end, picking a professor is still a guessing game. Thankfully, the Add/Drop period at the beginning of the semester allows students to change their mind after attending the class a few times. It’s okay to change a schedule once the semester begins. Students have to be happy with their courses in order to gain the most from them and keep a healthy mind.