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Online professor reviews can offer glimpse into classroom experience

May 29, 2013

With the advent of the digital age, students no longer have to rely solely on word of mouth to find information on professors, electing instead to peruse the Internet in search of pertinent information.

Whether professors bury students six-feet deep in graves of homework, are prone to giving pop quizzes or enjoy berating tardy individuals, every distinguishable trait is meticulously categorized by students on websites like Koofers and Rate My Professors. Proponents say these sites at their best offer students an under-the-hood view of professors and classes, while critics question the motives behind the ratings.

Psychology senior Jake Gajewski has been using Koofers since his freshman year and said he believes the reviews can help students find classes tuned to their learning style.

“I think sites like Koofers are a pretty good resource for finding out teacher traits,” Gajewski said.

He added traits like quiz frequency and attendance policy help him to find the professors and classes he will benefit from the most.

Gajewski has reviewed nearly every professor he’s had over the course of his time at MSU and said he hopes that professors check their online reviews as opposed to just relying on formal performance reviews.

Danny Holmes, a biosystems engineering senior, said that while he uses Koofers as a resource, he hasn’t actively contributed any professor reviews.

“I would be more likely to contribute in an extreme case, basically if a professor was really good or really bad,” he said.

Holmes said he chooses to voice his opinions on SIRS forms, whether they are positive or negative.
Journalism professor Sue Carter has been aware of the many rating services and their impact for two decades.

“I believe that these sites do have some impact on students’ choices,” she said. “In my own experience as a student, I was more likely to take a course because of the quality and the reputation of the professor teaching it than not.”

Carter holds a three-and-a-half star rating on Koofers, with the majority of comments endorsing her helpful nature and cheesy jokes. Carter said while she appreciates positive reviews, they are only a piece of the puzzle to being an effective professor.

“I believe that some professors do check the sites but the ratings are not reflective of the most critical part of a professor’s duties. Increasingly, the chief emphasis is on production of research grants,” she said.

Kevin Sydnor, the assistant director of the Office of Supportive Services said the system can be improved if both faculty and students are willing to have a conversation. Sydnor said determining credibility and sincerity are difficult when looking at reviews on sites like Koofers, but the wealth of student feedback indicates a willingness on the part of students to improve the college experience.

“Given commitment from both sides, we can come together to do it better for both students and professors,” he said.

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