Type of site
|Created by||RateMyProfessors.com, LLC.|
|Users||About 800,000 visitors/month|
RateMyProfessors.com (RMP) is a review site, founded in May 1999 by John Swapceinski, a software engineer from Menlo Park, California, which allows college and university students to assign ratings to professors and campuses of American, Canadian, and United Kingdom institutions. The site was originally launched as TeacherRatings.com and converted to RateMyProfessors in 2001. RateMyProfessors.com was acquired in 2005 by Patrick Nagle and William DeSantis. Nagle and DeSantis later resold RateMyProfessors.com in 2007 to Viacom's mtvU, MTV’s College channel.
Ratings and reviews
Users who have or are currently taking a particular professor’s course may post a rating and review of any professor already listed on the site. Furthermore, users may create a listing for any individual not already listed. To be posted, a rater must rate the course and/or professor on a 1-5 scale in the following categories: "easiness", "helpfulness", "clarity", the rater's "interest" in the class prior to taking it, and the degree of "textbook use" in the course. The rater may also share what grade they received in the course, rate the professor on their "hotness," and include comments of up to max 350 characters in length.
According to the website’s Help page, "The Overall Quality rating [that the professor ends up with] is the average of a teacher's Helpfulness and Clarity ratings...." It’s the professor’s Overall Quality rating that determines whether his/her name, on the list of professors, is accompanied by a little smiley face (meaning "Good Quality"), a frowny face ("Poor Quality"), or an in-between, expressionless face ("Average Quality"). A professor's name is accompanied by a chili pepper icon if the sum of his or her "hot" ratings is greater than zero (one "hot" rating equals +1, one "not hot" or left blank equals −1). In the past, if a professor received a greater amount of "hot" ratings than one, flames would appear on the chili and get larger with every additional "hot" rating. This system seems to have been abolished as none of the peppers are engulfed in flames.
For the first time, along with the release of their 2011-2012 Top Lists, RateMyProfessors.com debuted its "Fun Lists."
Since mtvU took over the website, RateMyProfessors.com has added a notes feature which allows professors to reply to students' comments. Professors must register with the website, using an ".edu" e-mail address, in order to make their notes. The site also had a feature called "Professors Strike Back" which featured videos of professors responding to specific ratings that they received on RateMyProfessors.
Students can also comment on and rate their school as well, by visiting their school's RateMyProfessors.com school page. School Ratings categories include Academic Reputation, Location, Campus, School Library, Food, Clubs & Activities, Social Events, and Happiness.
RateMyProfessors.com regularly updates the site to meet student preferences. In late 2011, professors were given the ability to make their Twitter handle available on their professor profile pages for students to follow. And in 2014, RateMyProfessors debuted a new responsive site design. In 2015, the site introduced custom URL's, which allows professors to create a custom URL for their ratings page.
In 2015, the site debuted a new series "Professors Read Their Ratings". The series features professors reading and reacting to their Rate My Professors ratings. Students can submit their videos on the site as well.
In 2008 RateMyProfessors.com was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2008.
In 2015, the site won two People's Choice Webby Awards after an extensive site overhaul.
RateMyProfessors.com versus formal in-class student evaluations
Using data for 426 instructors at the University of Maine, [researchers] examined the relationship between RateMyProfessors.com (RMP) indices and formal in-class student evaluations of teaching (SET). The two primary RMP indices correlate substantively and significantly with their respective SET items: RMP overall quality correlates r = .68 with SET item, Overall, how would you rate the instructor?; and RMP ease correlates r = .44 with SET item, How did the work load for this course compare to that of others of equal credit? Further, RMP overall quality and RMP ease each correlates with its corresponding SET factor derived from a principal components analysis of all 29 SET items: r = .57 and .51, respectively. Leading to the author's conclusion "While these RMP/SET correlations should give pause to those who are inclined to dismiss RMP indices as meaningless, the amount of variance left unexplained in SET criteria limits the utility of RMP.".
Disgruntled students who receive low grades have an unchecked ability to post unfair reviews that may affect adversely professor's life, standing, and even employment. The website creates a platform for expressing hate, getting revenge, and intimidating professors who grade fairly.
The analogy with rating a plumber versus rating a professor is based on the false grounds. Student's poor performance in class that may prompt an unfair review is commonly not a professor's fault. There is nothing similar in rating a plumber that may cause a customer to produce an unfair review.
The website has an economic reason to be on the student's side simply because there are many more students than professors. That reason alone makes the website's reviews skewed towards students trying to hurt the professors who have done their jobs and graded fairly.
For one thing, ratings have been shown to reflect gender bias toward the professors evaluated. Also, "easiness", "clarity", and "helpfulness" are the only components taken into consideration. Edward Nuhfer says that both Pickaprof.com and RMP "are transparently obvious in their advocacy that describes a 'good teacher' as an easy grader. ... Presenter Phil Abrami...rated the latter as 'The worst evaluation I've seen' during a panel discussion on student evaluations at the 2005 annual AERA meeting." Studies of RMP ratings conducted by Felton et al. found that "the hotter and easier professors are, the more likely they’ll get rated as a good teacher."
Edward Nuhfer has argued, "Pseudo-evaluation damages the credibility of legitimate evaluation and victimizes individuals by irresponsibly publishing comments about them derived from anonymous sources. This is voyeurism passed off as 'evaluation' and examples lie at PickAProf.com and RateMyProfessors.com. Neither site provides evaluation of faculty through criteria that might be valuable to a student seeking a professor who is conducive to their learning, thinking or intellectual growth."
Multiple ratings per person
Single individuals are able to make multiple separate ratings of a single professor on RMP. RMP admits that while it does not allow such multiple ratings from any one IP address, it has no control over raters who use several different computers, or those that "spoof" IP addresses. Also, there is no way of knowing that those who rate a professor's course have actually taken the course in question, making it possible for professors to rate themselves and each other.
Critics state that a number of the ratings focus on qualities they see as irrelevant to teaching, such as physical appearance, even though the appearance related "hotness" score is not included in the calculation of overall professor quality.
It is common at universities and colleges for faculty (especially junior faculty) to be called on by their departments to teach courses on topics that are not within their area(s) of expertise, which can earn them poor ratings at RMP that do not reflect the ability of those professors to teach courses on subjects that they are much more qualified to teach. RateMyProfessors, though it lets the student identify the course that they took with the professor, lumps together the ratings for all courses taught by each professor, instead of providing separate ratings averages for each course taught.
Permanent vs part-time faculty
Part-time (also known as adjunct) faculty are not always readily identifiable nor verifiable, as part-time professors often work at multiple schools or maintain employment outside the school.
On January 11, 2016, RMP notified its users via email (and with a small notification link on its website) that a decommissioned version of RMP's website suffered a data breach affecting email addresses, passwords, and registration dates. According to the California Department of Justice website, the security breach occurred six weeks earlier on or about November 26, 2015.
- Wired Magazine - 2005
- "MTV Networks' mtvU Agrees to Acquire RateMyProfessors.com".
- "About RateMyProfessors.com".
- Professors Strike Back on mtvU - As Seen on Rate My Professors
- "50 Best Websites 2008". Time. 17 June 2008.
- "Methodology". Forbes. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
- "RateMyProfessors.com versus formal in-class student evaluations of teaching".
- Pfeiffer, Sacha (September 20, 2006). "Ratings sites flourish behind a veil of anonymity". Boston Globe Online.
- Westhues, Kenneth (December 2006). "Stephen Berman: Scapegoat". UWaterloo.ca.
- Huntsberry, William (February 23, 2015). "How We Talk About Our Teachers". WNYC Morning Edition.
- Lang, James M. (December 1, 2003). "RateMyBuns.com". Chronicle of Higher Education.
- See Fritz Machlup and T. Wilson, cited in Paul Trout, "Deconstructing an Evaluation Form", The Montana Professor, Vol. 8 No. 3, Fall 1998, accessed 7 May 2008.
- Edward B. Nuhfer, 2005, "A Fractal Thinker Looks at Student Evaluations", accessed 10 May 2008.
- David Epstein, "‘Hotness’ and Quality", Inside Higher Ed, 8 May 2006, accessed 10 May 2008.
- Nuhfer, Edward Nuhfer (2010). "A Fractal Thinker Looks at Student Evaluations" (PDF). Retrieved April 25, 2010.
- Gabriela Montell, "The Art of the Bogus Rating", Chronicle of Higher Education, September 27, 2006
- Pfeiffer, "Ratings sites flourish behind a veil of anonymity".
- Montell, "The Art of the Bogus Rating", Chronicle of Higher Education.
- "RateMyProfessors.com – Find and rate your professor or campus.". www.ratemyprofessors.com. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
- Official website
- Attractiveness, Easiness, and Other Issues: Student Evaluations of Professors on RateMyProfessors.com
- Web-Based Student Evaluations of Professors: The Relations between Perceived Quality, Easiness, and Sexiness