Kent State professors assess Rate My Professors’ review system

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Rate My Professor graphic

Anna Smith Reporter

As students prepare to schedule their classes for next semester, some Kent State professors explain their thoughts on the positive and negative sides of the Rate My Professors website.

The website users have added over 1.7 million professors and 19 million ratings, according to their website. The widely used platform allows students to give professors numerical ratings and written responses about their performance.

“I think that people write reviews when they’re either disgruntled about something and they had a bad experience, or they had a really good experience,” said Belinda Boon, associate professor in the School of Information. “You have to take any review with a grain of salt.”

Over the years, Boon has looked at her reviews on Rate My Professors, but she hasn’t looked in the past two or three years, she said.

“What it doesn’t take into account though is how a professor changes their classes over time,” she said. “I think any kind of review for anything, whether it’s a product or person, is a snapshot in time.”

Boon hopes students will try to seek out more information instead of solely relying on Rate My Professors.

A website created by Ben Schmidt, a clinical associate professor of history at New York University, allows users to enter a word and see how often it is used to describe female and male teachers in reviews. The data is shown visually through a graph.

For example, male teachers are significantly more likely to be called hilarious while female teachers are more likely to be called strict. The split that is shown across gender could provide evidence of how inherent bias could affect reviews. 

Educators have also taken into account the structure of Rate My Professors.

“Because it’s not truly random surveys, it’s not an accurate reflection always,” said Mark Goodman, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism. “I think they can provide some insight, but it’s limited.”

The platform can help more than just students when searching for reviews and ratings.

“Whenever we’re looking to hire a new faculty member, I always look at those kinds of tools to see what ratings they got at the schools that they’re coming from,” he said.

Users rate the level of difficulty and quality of the professor on a number scale. Rate My Professors also lets students add details about their personal experience with a written review by the user.

“It’s no different from Amazon reviews or something like that,” said William Perrine, a senior lecturer in Fashion Design and Merchandising. “Everybody has a different experience.”

Perrine has the highest rating of any professor at Kent State with a 4.7/5 overall quality performance based on 229 ratings.

“I don’t think anybody should delay taking a class because they can’t get into the one that they think, according to Rate My Professors, they should take,” he said.

The website could be helpful when the student is able to find a professor who is a good fit for how they learn, he said.

“Talk to your friends who have had the class before,” he said. “That’s probably the best way because it’s a personal interaction.”

However, the reviews should not hinder students from taking the classes that they need to stay on track, he said.

“Sixteen weeks is a short amount of time,” he said. “They should do what’s best for their schedule so they graduate on time and get the classes they need.”

Contact Anna Smith at [email protected]