Given grades giving ratings – of professors.

During the hectic preregistration week in the beginning of each semester, college students in the US struggle to work out the perfect schedule for the next months. Too many things to consider: subject, credit count, time slot, classmates – and of course, the professor. Does she give a lot of assignments? Is he an easy grader? How does she feel about absences? Is she chill? Is he strict? Racist? Sexist? Leftist? To check on all of the above, everyone keeps another tab open on the browser: ratemyprofessors.com

Rate My Professor is a controversial online community of students that is hushed on campus grounds but remains a guilty go-to for many university students in the US. Participants rate their professors on a scale of 1 to 5 in the categories of easiness, helpfulness, knowledge and clarity as well as an “overall quality” score. They are also free to post comments and share their own experiences with the professors and the respective course. The site currently features over 8000 schools and 1,000,000 ratings.

Due to its lack of legitimate standards and proper validation, the RMP has been criticized for potential bias and relevancy. Although many schools had attempted to censor the website, both members and non-members protested the ban on account of free speech and administrative violation of the right. While the posts are inevitably subjective in nature, the very subjectivity of the reviews is the essence of any online community shaped by real thoughts and real talks from real people. At the end of the day, RMP creates a larger and more accessible platform for the conversations that would naturally take place in real life. Regardless of its “accuracy” or “reliability” (that many students agree that most of the reviews are), RMP can be noted for the active participation of the members of the community as well as for its inclusive nature for anyone willing to raise their voice.

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2 Comments

  1. I use Rate My Professor every semester when it’s time to register for classes. I don’t necessarily base my final decision on previous student’s reviews of the course and professor but it definitely gives me a better picture of what to expect. In my experience a lot of what I’ve read online on the site has aligned with my own personal opinion of the professor at the end of the semester, so I have come to trust it – it’s also always funny to see which professors have been rated as “hot” which I’m sure can be a problematic feature of the site too though.

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  2. Interesting choice! This totally didn’t come to my mind when I was thinking of online communities, but it’s definitely a good example. This is a place where students from all walks of life and universities all around the globe have come together for the sake of each other, ensuring that their peers don’t have the same poor experiences they had. I’ve used the site before, and though I do consider some of the reviews to be subject to bias I’ve found that in most cases the site is quite reliable. As I attend a smaller private university back home I don’t use the site as much, as I can normally find someone who has already had that professor with moderate ease, but for people in large universities with thousands of students, where most of their classes consist of lectures of 200 people, RMP is a priceless resource. I also find it interesting that on top of the actual quality of a professor, you can rate your professor on a scale of attractiveness, an aspect of the site which honestly receives a lot more attention than it probably should.

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