As a new crop of freshmen are about to enter the University of Nevada, Reno and other colleges nationwide this summer, they get to partake in something that might be completely new to them: choosing their own classes.
While both navigating university websites and finishing out high school might seem perilous to many high school seniors, there is one resource that has stood out as an unofficial beacon of knowledge: the website RateMyProfessor.com. While RMP has been around since 1999, it has grown over the years to become a university student’s go-to guide for formulating who and who not to take for the upcoming semester. Although RMP has its positives and negatives, it has still given students a somewhat feasible guide to unknown territory. However, without the university disclosing course evaluations, how useful is the website as the only source?
Getting to the crux of the website itself, there are numerous pros and cons. Looking at the number of reviews, they can often be discounted if they are not well-written and don’t make sense. Being able to differentiate and take the reviews with a grain of salt is one of the ways to maximize their use. Furthermore, the pages are like any other review with more ratings equating to validity. Finally, reviewers with the same style of writing or grammatical cohesiveness should be looked at as the most desirable, in the sense that all reviews with better reasoning and balanced judgment are more trust-worthy than rushed decisions.
The drawbacks of the website are easier to distinguish, since rating the teachers tends to fall primarily upon the students who either had a positive or negative experience with the teacher. Also, since the website isn’t distributed through the university, the evaluations on RMP are not as up to date as the course evaluations, which are distributed each semester. Looking through the ratings, there are cases where professors either do not have an evaluation for the course or do not have an evaluation at all on RMP.
Course evaluations, if they ever are published, would be infinitely more useful than RMP in the long-run. At the end of 2012, the University of DePaul in Chicago ran a piece in its student newspaper about their students supporting the university publicizing course evaluations. According to the article, the faculty there was unanimously in favor of making the teacher evaluations available to the public. Although the students here sometimes do not take the course evaluations seriously, if they were made public and served a purpose to the students as a whole instead of taking up class time or only as an evaluation for administrators to ensure the performance of their employees, then their purpose could be fully realized. Also according to the report, 82 of 162 students would be more likely to fill out the evaluations if they were made public.
While the university might drag its feet on making the course evaluations public, it could eventually make the process of choosing teachers and classes a lot less of a headache for students. What is holding the university back from making this information public is anybody’s guess, but having access to the information will hold students and, most importantly, professors to a higher standard of excellence.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.