One NDSU professors view on Rate My Professors app

In the world of ratings, the app Rate My Professor allows students to view professor’s scores before they take a class

In today’s society, people can easily obtain knowledge on a certain product or business before they decide to try it.

With apps like Yelp that rate a variety of businesses, Rotten Tomatoes allowing critics to give in-depth movie ratings or even the review and comment section on almost every online product, people are able to skip the trial process and base their experience upon others’ judgments without having to try it themselves.

Even basic social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have this element of rating. Likes, comments and shares all come together to form a rating system.

According to BrightLocal, nearly 80% of people trust online review sites as much as personal recommendations and almost 75% say positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Having the foreknowledge of something before purchasing, signing up for, watching something or meeting someone for the first time is no doubt a beneficial tool, but do you ever wonder how many opportunities you missed out on because you listened to someone’s unfavorable review?

What the app/site is all about

As for the world of education, the site and app Rate My Professors is the unofficial rating tool when it comes to students deciding which classes to take and, more specifically, which professor to take them with.

According to Rate My Professors’ website, they are the largest online destination for professor ratings. Users have added more than 19 million ratings, 1.7 million professors and over 7,500 schools to Rate My Professors.

User-generated content makes Rate My Professors the highest trafficked site for quickly researching and rating professors, colleges and universities across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. More than 4 million college students use Rate My Professors each month.

The site states that “choosing the best courses and professors is a rite of passage for every student, and connecting with peers on the site has become a key way for millions of students to navigate this process. The site does what students have been doing forever — checking in with each other — their friends, their brothers, their sisters, their classmates; to figure out who’s a great professor and who’s one you might want to avoid.”

However, given the site’s impressive stats and argument for their credibility, a New York Times article suggests the site is something that should not be taken into consideration when choosing courses, professors or universities.

Virginia Heffernan, a NYT journalist, says that “students should not base decisions about their education on it, believing (mistakenly) that they always know how to filter information on wiki sites. And professors should not get ideas from it, believing (mistakenly) that it represents the wisdom of crowds. The top professors on Rate My Professors, after all, are not the top professors in the nation. Rather, they’re the top professors on RateMyProfessors.com.”

Here’s what a ‘top-rated’ NDSU professor has to say

Despite the site’s popularity, many professors don’t have a clue about these ratings.

Indranil Sengupta, Associate Professor and Mathematics Graduate Recruitment Chair in the Department of Mathematics at NDSU, is one of the “top-rated professors” with a 4.9 out of five rating.

On Monday, Sengupta was introduced to his profile on Rate My Professors. “This really makes me happy to see the encouragement from students,” Sengupta said.

By reading the comments from previous students, a new student might decide to take a course with Sengupta and succeed in that class better than if they had randomly selected a professor.

“I really enjoy the method of the lecture, physically writing the notes on the doc camera. It makes it so much easier to keep up with notes and follow the thought process put into the notes. The homework prepared me well for the exam, and the textbook was also a great resource if I didn’t quite understand a lesson in class,” an anonymous user said.

Sengupta says he enjoys the positive comments, but finds the constructive feedback extremely helpful.

“If it’s critical, sometimes it’s more helpful,” said Sengupta. “But, if it’s something that has nothing to do with the class or is more of a personal dislike of a professor, that is something I would be discouraged to read because it’s not giving any meaningful information. The feedback should be focused on how the instructor is teaching, then not only will students be informed, but the professor might be more encouraged to adapt to students’ constructive criticism.”

Comments that provide a good blend of positive and constructive feedback are the most helpful for both students and professors.

“[His] explanation style is good. However, frequent homework assignments would have been more helpful. [I think] he should spend some more time on the last chapter as the concepts are important. Overall, [Sengupta is] a good professor.

Not many professors get as many good ratings as Sengupta. In fact, some students go as far as commenting on a professor personally instead of reviewing their teaching style.

Retired English professor, Andy Trump, is one of the professor profiles that is ranked among the lowest with a 2.1 out of five. Students on this profile submit overexaggerated comments and don’t provide a solution to the problems they have with the professors.

“He rambles on about nothing for an hour, and then has you do a worksheet that is completely not related to anything. [The class is] easy if you can tolerate the feeling of your brain shrieking in pain as it melts as he talks,” an anonymous user said.

There are definitely nastier comments out there than the one above, however the site does not automatically show viewers the lowest ranking professors like they do with the top-rated professors. Sifting through the professor ratings can get pretty frustrating when trying to get through over 1,000 of them.

And then there are the random 5.0 comments on Trump’s profile that throw students for a loop. “What a guy!” an anonymous user said.

Sengupta brought up a good point during the interview that some of these comments might not even be students that attended these classes. It would be simple for an internet troll to find out the class number and other necessary information to leave an anonymous comment.

NDSU’s profile

Not only do professors get rankings on the site, universities can also see how students rank them in various categories and how that affects their overall score.

NDSU’s overall score is 3.8 out of five with safety being the highest score and internet being the lowest score.

“If you are from the Midwest, NDSU is the place to go. If you are coming from anywhere further away, you might be disappointed in the campus as it’s nothing special. The people in Fargo are awesome,” an anonymous user said.

There are a variety of comments that a profile can get. Some are more generalized and speak to multiple audiences and others give more personal opinions and experiences.

“Some of these are a bit iffy because of corona, I just kinda assumed the social would be like a 3, the food is not good. It is literally just the same stuff I was served in high school. I lost my freshman 15 because I hated it. You might be fine. I am picky,” an anonymous user said.

In comparison, University of North Dakota’s profile has an overall rating of 3.8 with safety being their highest rating and location being their lowest. Most of their comments complain about the weather and location of the university.

For more information on Rate My Professor, visit https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/campusRatings.jsp?sid=1358.

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