Rate my teacher

Online reviews of teachers may give students the keys to finding great professors

Not all teachers are equal for a given class. To help with selection, the Internet offers some tools that separate the good, the bad and the ugly. Web sites like Myspace.com and Ratemyprofessors.com give students the opportunity to review teachers anonymously and reveal some attributes that could save others from a hellish semester.

Review sites let users select from many schools and have databases of teachers listed alphabetically by last name or department. New names and reviews can be added easily so the system stays up-to-date. The University of Nevada, Reno’s listing is extensive on both sites, but Myspace seems to have more reviews.

On Myspace, the teachers are graded A through F on fairness, lectures, tests, homework, grading and accessibility. The grades are averaged and an overall grade is assigned. Grading a teacher is easy; just select a grade for each attribute, write what class you had and enter some notes. Ratemyprofessors organizes the site differently. It uses emoticons to show if the professor is good, average or poor. Also, for fun, a chili pepper appears on the review if the professor is deemed sexy. Ratemyprofessors also uses a point scale instead of letter grades, and the criteria differ: easiness, helpfulness, clarity and hotness. Ratemyprofessors also has comments.

The system isn’t perfect. Both Web sites have ways to flag abusive reports and warnings against posting offensive content. Despite warnings, some students hold grudges, spew venomous comments and post multiple bad reviews to lower overall grades. One student, who didn’t like his Core Humanities teacher, posted this grammatically incorrect review:

“He was one of the most self centered, single minded professors I have had the displeasure of working with. Once me and him started butting heads on topics he chose to force upon me; things went down hill for the rest of the symester.”

But abuse isn’t limited to students. There have also been suspicions of savvy teachers boosting their own grades. Chet Robie, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, was quoted in an online article as saying that he and many of his colleagues suspect one faculty member of doctoring colleagues’ ratings to make his or her own appear more favorable. Who knows, professors may even give themselves undeserved chili peppers.

Problems of these sites aside, there are still some tricks to avoiding the garbage reviews and getting some good information. Sometimes, the overall grades don’t reflect what the reviewers say in their comments, so it is best to read them all. Another thing to look for is a trend. If many people say the same things about the same teachers, the review is probably trustworthy. In addition, those who take more time and use proper grammar seem to have more credible opinions. The more results the better. If a teacher isn’t listed, try another department, name spelling or search another review site. Compare results from different review sites. Other sites are available by googling “professor reviews,” but they may not be as user friendly or as comprehensive as the big two. If all else fails, and you are stuck with a terrible professor, full refunds on books and tuition are available within the first week.