Thursday, January 17

Don't use Rate My Professors

Easiness, helpfulness, clarity, reader interest and red peppers. Those have become the five modern pillars of grading the effectiveness of an educator.

Throughout my college career, I used Rate My Professors often. When faced with numerous options, classes and profs, I turned to that website for guidance when choosing my classes. If you don't know, Rate My Professors is a site that allows anyone to search a professor, give them a rating, write comments and see what others have said in the past. The site calculates the averages and gives you an overall rating, which also could include the vaunted red pepper, signifying the professor's good looks. 

This is a horrible system. I realized this too late into my career and made several mistakes using it. Here's why.

A majority of people who use the website are disgruntled students looking to extract some form of revenge on a prof for numerous reasons. Its their way of sticking it to the prof without actual confrontation. One of my favorite responses of all time was "If I had one hour to live, I'd spend it in his class because it feels like an eternity." A person who had a good experience is far less likely to go on the site and sing the praises of someone who they loved.

And who are these people leaving comments? Do you know them? Do you know their study habits? Do you  know their attendance? IQ level? Some people are lazy, and might deservedly get terrible grades, but you would never know that from a review that called the professor "the dark prince" would you? There is no way to get the details of the person posting anonymous ratings.

Clarity: 1.1
Truth is, we all respond to different teaching styles in different ways. What works for one student might be a disaster for another. Statistics is hard for me, and no professor could fix that. However, some people would still choose to blame the professor for their own poor study habits, unwillingness to meet with profs and simple lack of mathematical wizardry. 

Also, professors are constantly improving. That't why we fill out official surveys at the end of each semester. A semester-old review might be out of date, as a professor my have learned from their mistakes, changed their teaching style or implemented new techniques.

And the pepper is a joke. I'd take a gremlin-esqe teacher who helps me learn over a swimsuit model with no ability to teach, any day of the week. The pepper seals the deal for Rate My Professors when it comes to academic credibility. No website that takes reviews seriously would include a metric to rate the hotness of teachers. My education isn't a beauty contest. (It's actually the opposite, if you look at the vapid people who participate in said contests.)

My advice is to talk to people you trust when it comes to selecting a professor. People who have similar study habits, goals and expectations for themselves are going to give you a far better idea of who to take, instead of a random person from five years ago who wrote an ALL CAPS REVIEW OF HOW THE WHACK PROFESSOR DIDN'T LIKE SNICKERS BARS, YO. Don't depend on emoticons for your educational choices. And don't trust anonymous people online, especially when it comes to your education or your girlfriend. I can't even imagine what Te'o believed about his world history professor. 

By Aaron Brandt,