Some social network sites are constantly adding features to enhance their online communities. However, the benefits of RateMyProfessors are a result of its continued focus on its primary goal: sharing feedback on college professors. Ratings are easy to find and easy to contribute to at no cost to its users, and without extra social networking bells and whistles. While members can speak out using the RateMyProfessors forum, the forum is very simple and less relevant when compared to other social network Web sites. The real value of RateMyProfessors is in its millions of ratings over a decade of use.
RateMyProfessors includes both positive and negative feedback throughout the site, primarily from undergraduates. It also includes a difficulty rating, which you can compare against the student's attitude toward the class and the professor. While posting guidelines help filter out less-than-helpful information, comments often provide tips for future students. Besides these benefits in the rating system, mtvU provides a welcoming online environment at RateMyProfessors.com, targeted to the fun side of college life.
Since it launched, RateMyProfessors has not been without controversy, especially from universities and professors [source: Vosilla]. The technology behind the site could replace outdated paper-and-pencil evaluation systems that gather data to which students have little access. However, the site tends to attract students from extreme experiences -- really good or really bad -- who have an agenda for contributing their ratings and comments [source: Barker].
In a 2007 article on professor ratings Web sites, Naomi Rockler-Gladen outlined some of the arguments for and against social networking sites dedicated to professor ratings. Though the list of arguments against cited most of what RateMyProfessors' critics have expressed, the list of arguments for the sites explained that they provide an outlet for students to defend themselves against professors who abuse their power or try to indoctrinate them. With its side-by-side comparison between the pros and cons, Rockler-Gladen's article doesn't take a side, but asks questions that both students and professors must answer for themselves when determining the value of RateMyProfessors.
The number of Web sites for professor ratings is growing, but they're less established than RateMyProfessors, and they vary in their approach. For example, Campushopper.com has a wide range of social networking features for college students besides professor ratings. Lower-traffic sites include Professor Performance (myprofessorsucks.com) with a school-like grading system instead of numeric ratings, and GPABook.com, which includes textbook price comparison. Newer to the scene, PickAProf.com creates attractive ratings charts while restricting access to its services to those who register with an e-mail address issued by the given college. Internet-savvy students can also use search engines to find blog entries and blurbs about professors from other social networking Web sites, but an array of search engine results may not seem as credible as an established site with lots of contributed ratings.
So RateMyProfessors is popular and includes a lot of ratings, but some users have expressed doubts about the validity of using social networks like this to find reliable information about college professors. Even if the critics' voices grow louder or the competition gets stronger, there's no doubt that RateMyProfessors has spent its first decade as a favorite semester-planning resource for millions of college students.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Barker, Gina. "Program makes picking a professor a little easier." The Signpost. Nov. 26, 2008. (June 19, 2009) http://media.www.wsusignpost.com/media/storage/paper985/news/2008/11/26/News/Rate-My.Professor-3562484.shtml
- Lombardi, Candace. "MTV to buy RateMyProfessors.com." CNET News. Jan. 17, 2007. (June 25, 2009) http://news.cnet.com/-MTV-to-buy-RateMyProfessors.com/2110-1030_3-6150843.html
- RateMyProfessors. "About Us" (June 18, 2009)http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/About.jsp
- RateMyProfessors.com. "Advertise With Us!" (June 18, 2009)http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/advertise.jsp
- RatingZ.net. "Local Entrepreneur John Swapceinski announces sale of
- RateMyProfessors.com." Nov. 16, 2005. (June 18, 2009)http://www.ratingz.net/press/051116-pr-RMP-sale.pdf
- Rockler-Gladen, Naomi. "College Professor Ratings Website: Are Teacher Evaluation Sites Like RateMyProfessors.com a Good Idea?" Suite101.com. May 20, 2007. (June 19, 2009)http://collegeuniversity.suite101.com/article.cfm/college_professor_ratings_website
- Vedder, Richard. "The Negative Spillover Effects of Graduate and Professional Education." Center for College Affordability and Productivity Blog. May 18, 2008. (June 19, 2009)http://collegeaffordability.blogspot.com/2008/05/negative-spillover-effects-of-graduate.html
- Vosilla, Theresa."RateMyProfessor causing controversy." The Spectrum. Sept. 28, 2006. (June 19, 2009)http://media.www.sacredheartspectrum.com/media/storage/paper747/news/2006/09/28/Features/Ratemyprofessor.Causing.Controversy-2312152.shtml
- Wentworth, Stephanie. "Towson's RateMyProfessor gets ready to test the market." Baltimore Business Journal. April 14, 2006. (June 19, 2009)http://baltimore.bizjournals.com/baltimore/stories/2006/04/17/story8.html