A professor can seriously set the tone for your semester. Anyone who has ever had either a great professor (hopefully you), a not-so-great professor (hopefully not you) or with the slightest bit of common sense can tell you that.
It’s also common sense to know that one of the best ways to learn about a potential situation is from someone who has already experienced it.
Applied here: you getting a review on a course from a real, live student who has taken that same course with that very same professor. Yep, it’s not rocket science.
Where it does
become a little dicey is in determining what to do with the information given. Do you take their word as fact? Look for more student opinions? Ask to see their other grades to ensure they are a credible student source?
Check out the following guide to help you learn about popular professor rating websites and what to keep in mind while reading each site’s ratings and reviews.
What Should I Know Before Using These Sites?
Yes, professor rating websites can be a helpful tool, but there are a few things to keep in mind while using them. Ultimately, it's best to check multiple sources - to see what seems to be the consensus - as well as a professor's credentials and form your own educated option.
Take Comments with a Grain of Salt...
• The majority of students that take the time to rate professors have extreme opinions of them, whether they are positive or negative.
Take each opinion with a grain of salt because such extreme opinions are often biased and somewhat of an inaccurate portrayal of the professor’s teaching methods.
It’s also much more common for people to write negative reviews than positive. (Think about how much you complain about services versus complimenting them, for example.)
It’s always best to read a lot of reviews to see what the general consensus is and form your own opinion, rather than just taking one opinion as fact.
Remember, you’re just getting a one-sided story. Students who complain about poor grades but didn't work to achieve higher ones doesn't really reflect on a professor’s teaching style.
It's All Relative...
• Individual students have different ideas about the qualities great teachers possess.
Once you read plenty of reviews, try to read between the lines for, what sounds like, the most realistic portrayals of a professor’s teaching style.
Worst-case scenario: you can always drop or switch courses if you were completely off base in ignoring a particular review.
Don't Limit Your Challenges...
• When a professor ranks highly on the difficulty scale,
it does not mean you should avoid the course.
Great courses are often the most challenging. In fact, some of the most boring classes are the easiest.
A difficult course and
and bad professor, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs. It’s smart to keep an eye out for courses ranked as difficult with professors that also have ratings that describe them as overly hard or as unfair graders.
However, if the professor is ranked highly in terms of being respectful and grading fairly, it’s not necessarily a class you should steer clear from. You may just need to work a little harder for your grade.
You Can't Hide Forever...
• It’s absolutely impossible to completely avoid difficult courses.
You shouldn't want to, anyway - you should challenge your limits, instead! Challenging yourself is part of how you learn and grow. However, there are strategies to picks the right types of difficult courses.
The best strategy is to choose the right difficult courses, with the right type of professor who will fit with your learning style. That way, the difficult courses won’t seem quite as bad as they could be.
So, go ahead, take a difficult course. You may actually end up learning a lot!
What Do the Student "Experts" Think?
• Try to look for comments from students who have majors related to the course subject.
This actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Sure - they're not really experts, but they are going to be quite familiar with the teachers in the course's department so, chances are, they have likely taken a course with the professor several times over.
And, they probably liked
the subject so they can give an actual portrayal of the professor without complaining about the subject matter. For example, an accounting major may dislike writing and, because they dislike the course material in a writing course, may rate a professor more harshly than, say, a journalism major. However, if a journalism major were to rate that same writing course negatively, it should set off some red flags.
Popular Professor Rating Sites
Claiming the largest online destination for professor ratings, the site is “built for college students, by college students.”
According to their web site, users have added more than 19 million ratings, 1.7 million professors and 7,500 schools across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Koofers is somewhat of a hybrid between Rate My Professors and myEdu, because the site has valuable ratings included on myEdu, as well as student comments to help you make more informed decisions regarding professors.
The site is also useful in that it provides average class GPAs and additional information about exams, quizzes, class projects and, when applicable, extra credit opportunities.
Students are also able to detail difficult of the exams; whether or not the professor applies a grading curve and if any pop quizzes are to be expected. It’s helpful to know what to expect in a course and this type of information lends itself to just that.
On Uloop, you’re able to search college professors by your state, university, the professor’s last name or by department. With five-star scales, you’re able to see the ratings over three qualities: helpfulness, clarity and easiness, compiled with the professor’s overall score.
Student comments are posted next to each rating, which helps the reader understand why certain ratings may have been given.
Also, it’s helpful to see how many students have ranked the professor in total (for example, if a professor has one star but only one student has rated them, that’s something to think less about than if a professor has one star and 1,000 students rated them.)