Illustration courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user Reuben Ingber

RateMyProfessors is useful and reliable

By Nicholas Nerli

Tis the season for college applications, advisor meetings and class registration, prompting current and prospective students to turn to online evaluation websites like RateMyProfessors.com (RMP). Whether you’re investigating a particular professor’s lecture abilities or snag some advice on paper writing, RMP has abundant information. And if you’re interested in an evaluation of an instructor’s physical qualifications, RMP even has the ability to measure hotness. Over the years, RMP has become a staple for students looking to perform research and gather basic data on what a future professor may provide to their academic careers.

Due to the lack of regulation, sites like RMP are typically thought to be  unreliable and misleading, since people who post are able to freely rate with very few limitations and there is little standardization in their evaluations. The website is comprised of  reviews written by past students who rate test difficulty, homework quantity, lecture clarity and personality.

When totally combined, each rating produces a cumulative score between one and five that reflects the overall assessment of a professor. In addition to this numeric rating, reviewers can write a summary of their experiences with a specific professor, offering the opportunity to write a thorough explanation for an evaluation. Often, these summaries are the critical element that provides a reader with deciding factors as to whether they should choose to pursue a professor’s course.

While some professors have little to no reviews, it is common knowledge that the most and least likable professors have a larger archive of ratings. Many students have similar things to say about a professor, creating some standard of reliability among website users. What’s more, RMP averages the cumulative and category scores for a professor, which makes the website more impartial as more people contribute reviews.

The most common critique of RMP is that it serves as a platform for petty complaints and extensive rants While this occurs occasionally, the website has proven a dependable atmosphere for students to provide advice and also warnings to future and fellow students. In the event of a professor’s profile containing a complaint or compliment from many reviewers, a coincidental pattern can quickly turn to caution and encouragement for readers. This is the heart of the service that RMP provides, steering students toward the best teachers for them.

Another important aspect of RMP is the reflection it has on the face of a college, its academic departments and individual programs. For those researching an institution or department, a significant opinion comes from the testimony of former students. RMP provides ratings and professor scores. Oftentimes, a department can  even be evaluated by the sum of its overall professor assessments. As the use of RMP continues to increase, this website may be utilized as a tool to establish and evaluate the quality of academics. This can serve as a critical component to an applicant’s college decision, especially if posted student reflections disagree with the advertisements of any school’s admissions department.

Ultimately, the service that RMP provides is critical in concept and has the potential to be fantastic in practice, but only if it is recognized as a resource for student success. In an age where academic prestige, tuition costs and the necessity of a college education are often questioned, sites like RMP are a resource when researching potential institutions. RMP should be taken seriously for student reflection, and advice to students interested in investing in their education.

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