When it comes to choosing college classes and professors, word-of-mouth is replaced by the Internet.
Students are now turning to RateMyProfessors.com, a national online warehouse of students’ reviews on professors, to determine their upcoming schedules.
Sam Zimmerman, a junior at Winona State University, said that she references the site before talking to other students.
“It’s handy to look at it and then talk to people afterwards,” she said. “Especially since all the info for the classes and professors is online.”
RateMyProfessors.com, created in 1999, has become the largest online database for rating professors. Each month, more than 4 million college students from around 7,500 universities visit the site to rate the 1,500,000 professors listed across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Carissa Evelyn, a senior at WSU, said she would always use the site when she had to decide which professor would be best to take with a certain class.
“If I didn’t know which professor I should take I would look at their ratings,” she said. “It gives you somewhat of an idea of what the professor was like.”
As RateMyProfessors.com continues to grow in popularity, students are finding different ways of employing the site.
Zimmerman said she uses the site to get an idea of how often the textbooks are used and what style of note taking to expect, while Kara Zachman, a junior from UW La Crosse, checks the site before taking exams to look for studying tips from previous students.
“Let’s face it, some professors can make or break your grade,” Zachman said.
RateMyProfessors.com requires the evaluation of five categories: a professor’s easiness, helpfulness, clarity, students’ interest level prior to attending class and any textbooks that may be used throughout the semester.
Students are asked to enter the class’ course number and include any comments they might have about the course overall. The grade received and whether attendance was mandatory is included in the rating; however, not required for submission.
Gary Kastello, professor of health, exercise and rehabilitative sciences at WSU, said that students’ final grades from the course they are evaluating should be required because typically the level of effort that students show in class determines the rating of the professor. Kastello noted that if you were to ask a student who got an A, they would say the class was great, but if you asked a student who got a C or a D, they wouldn’t recommend the course.
“You tend to get the extremes of the site,” he said.
Ralph Townsend, dean of WSU’s College of Liberal Arts, agrees and encourages students to have an “open mind” when it comes to the ratings.
Because the incentives behind rating professors vary, some students are wary of the site’s validity and feedback.
Maria Zivkovic, a junior at WSU, said during spring semester of her freshman year she registered for a class with a professor who had “terrible ratings” on RateMyProfessors.com, but ended up really enjoying the class.
“I was expecting not to like it and I went into the class really scared and terrified,” Zivkovic said. “However, I decided to take her anyway and the class was a lot more intense, but I realized if you came prepared, studied, and actually gave it a chance that it wasn’t that bad.”
For Sarah Adrian, a sophomore at WSU, RateMyProfessors.com serves as mere entertainment.
“I just want to see if there’s anything crazy about them,” she said.
A unique characteristic of RateMyProfessors.com is the ability for students to rate the professor’s appearance as “hot” or “not.” If enough students rank a professor as “hot”, a red chili pepper will appear on that professor’s profile.
“The great stir among faculty members is when someone gets a hot chili pepper,” Townsend joked.
When Kastello first heard of the site, he said that there was a lot of competition among the faculty members. In order to get his chili pepper, Kastello wore a suit to class for an entire week in order to persuade his students.
“I had to beg for a pepper,” he said.