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Elon faculty discuss their opinions on RateMyProfessors.com

Rating Scale.RateMyProfessors.com, the largest online service for professor ratings, provides feedback on approximately 1.7 million faculty members teaching at about 8,000 schools in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. While on Rate My Professors’ website or mobile application, students are free to generate comments about their professors and institutions, and in turn, the service tallies those ratings to give professors, colleges, and universities average scores. With 749 recorded professor ratings, Elon’s faculty averages a score of 3.68 out of 5.

Though the service is typically utilized by college students who are registering for courses and are constructing their class schedules, some students visit the website after completing a course to leave feedback on faculty members, so future generations of students can read up on professors’ teaching styles and assigned workloads. Because of this, some faculty members consult the resource to better understand student reactions.

Typically, however, the website houses extreme comments, as students who either really love or dislike a professor post their very opinionated reviews online. For this reason, some professors deem the resource worthless and inaccurate.

To gauge how Elon faculty members feel about the online resource, I asked professors from different departments to voice their opinions.

More: Read about how Elon students consult RateMyProfessors.com before registering for classes.

One faculty member said he or she has never visited RateMyProfessors.com because it offers no professional value to professors since the student responses on the website are typically biased and bimodal. This professor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, usually, students who either love or hate a professor are the individuals who choose to post on the forum. Also, because RateMyProfessors.com is an electronic evaluation form, it is prone to elicit more extreme responses since students can “hide” behind their computer screens more easily due to time and environment variations. This faculty member said teaching evaluations administered to students in face-to-face environments are more helpful, effective, and useful vehicles for feedback.

Another faculty member said he or she initially laughed after visiting RateMyProfessors.com for the first time. He or she said the categories used to define the quality of a professor seemed shallow and sophomoric. When reading the responses on the website, this professor attempted to put himself or herself into the shoes of an 18- to 22-year-old, asking, “Would I have used such a resource when in college as a student?” and concluding, “Yes, definitely.” This faculty member said the biases in the students’ comments are clear, but those prejudices are often referenced in the students’ responses themselves. For example, if an instructor is deemed “hard” for one student, that same professor may be considered pudding for another, and students seem aware of that.

Generally, Elon faculty members find that because RateMyProfessors.com is run through an online environment, it seems to encourage brutality among students. Many said if instructors with thinner skins were to read the website, they could possibly take true offense to students’ harshness. Further, many said they would rather consult other Elon-administered assessments to learn about student feedback. Aside from reviewing the end-of-the-semester evaluations Elon requires of its students, many professors said they often administer smaller, anonymous surveys throughout the semester to ask students about the progression of their courses and to learn of any concerns they may have. Because these smaller assessments are often custom-tailored to individual professors’ courses and teaching styles, they find them more valuable and accurate.

Image by Flickr user billsoPHOTOCreative Commons licensed BY-CC 2.0

Sam Parker

Sam Parker

Sam Parker is a Marketing Student Writer Intern with Elon University's Teaching and Learning Technologies.

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