Ratemyprofessors.com: useful tool or biased alternative to official evaluations?

UW-Madison’s main page on ratemyprofessors.com.

The website ratemyprofessors.com contains over 8,000 universities and technical colleges with ratings of different professors.

Professors are critiqued on a rating scale from one to five. Five is the highest rating for a professor and one is the lowest.

Ratemyprofessors.com contains schools from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

A professor well received from a student’s view might be rated from three to five.

There are helpful and positive comments, along with negative comments.

A professor’s rating page shows the overall rating of a certain professor, which is calculated by all the ratings, along with the level of difficulty, according to the one-to-five scale.

The positive comments are something along the lines of, “He or she was a great professor,” or a more helpful comment would be, “He or she is a really nice professor who prepares you well for the exam, but is a hard grader.” A negative comment would be something like, “He or she wasn’t a good professor because of too much homework and tough grading.”

Going onto ratemyprofessors.com can be a useful tool for college students, but not necessarily so much for professors.

This website may help college students determine what professors to take for a class by judging ratings from former students.

Most students would agree that many of these ratings are accurate in evaluating professors from a student’s point of view.

“I [agreed] when I looked the professors and teachers I had in college, it seems to be pretty fair and accurate,” Ethan Smith, a freshman at UW-Fox Valley, said.

“Some of the [ratings] I agree with and others, not as much because maybe people learn in a different way,” Erik Schneider, a freshman, said.

Kathy Immel, associate professor of psychology, largely has positive reviews at the high extreme of the spectrum, but negative reviews tended to be at the lowest end.

“My ratings to me seemed mixed. Two types of students go on and post and rate. It’s either students who love the course and really like me as a professor and want to make it known or to share it with others, or it’s the other extreme: students who, for whatever reason, did not like the course or didn’t like my teaching style,” Immel said.

Peter Gibson, senior lecturer of chemistry at UW-Fox Valley, commented that some of his own ratings arose out of lack of communication.

“It’s nine times out of ten that I agree with [ratings] because I, as a professor, failed to communicate well with a student,” Gibson said.

Professors agree that official student evaluations dispersed in classrooms tend to be more helpful than ratemyprofessors.com.

“I went on this website a long time ago because ever since we got those student evaluations, I just look at those [because they’re] more useful,” Bertrand Tirel, senior lecturer of mathematics, said.

Although Immel finds that the website can be useful, she also finds the student evaluations to be more helpful. She has a useful strategy on how to take criticism from this website.

“What can I take away from the feedback and what I can learn from what students have posted [is useful]. If I see a pattern where there are three or four students saying the same thing that suggests to me that maybe it’s something I need to look more closely at and see if I can change it. Patterns matter to me,” Immel said.

“I think that [in] teaching a class that is required, such as math 110, [it’s] more likely for people to not be happy,” Tirel said.

Although ratemyprofessors.com can be useful to students, it doesn’t always appear to be a useful tool for professors to use to improve their teaching strategies.

A freshman at UW-Fox Valley, Nav Bal, indicated that ratemyprofessors.com is much more useful for prospective students than for professors themselves.

“I wouldn’t say this website is helpful [to professors]; I would say it’s useful because if you’re one of those people who gets really bad anxiety, it would be a good idea to check this website out,” Bal said.

For a student worried about what professors are more or less popular with students, it may be a good idea to check out ratemyprofessors.com.