The first weeks of classes have come and gone, and most of us believe we have gotten a feel for what our courses are all about. Some of us have battled RAMweb, trying to rearrange our schedules while others have just shrugged and prepared to ride out the semester. One thing few people have done, however, is evaluate their professors. Being unlucky enough to draw a bad professor is something that can ruin a class, or even an entire semester.
Fortunately for us, there’s RamRatings.com, a student-run Web site where students can rate their professors online and read evaluations from other students. Unfortunately for us, it is not very well advertised. At most, all students see of it is a few hastily scrawled chalk letters on the sidewalk at the end of the year. Since most students never see the site until it is too late to do anything about their classes, they rarely take the time to evaluate the professors. The only evaluations currently posted are those from students who either loved their professor enough to write a glowing report, or hated them enough to want to warn other students away.
RamRatings.com runs off of the OpenRatings evaluation engine, using an A through F grading system. It asks three questions: does your professor present material clearly, does the professor respond well to student needs, and finally it asks for an overall grade. It also asks for information about the student, such as what grade they received and why they took the class, information that can be invaluable in determining whether or not the student’s advice is sound. A comments box allows an evaluating student to explain just what they loved or hated about their professor. Once students have evaluated a professor, the grades are figured into a GPA for the professor, which is listed alongside the student’s comment and made available to the public. The entire site is well laid out, easy to understand, and more concise than end-of-the-year evaluations handed out in class.
The university’s only system of evaluation seems to have one goal: providing feedback to the professors. This is fine, except for the fact that it counts for nothing other than emotional release for you and free birdcage liner for your favorite professor. These evaluations are written by students but never seen by students, so they do not help anyone decide whether to stick out an ornery professor, or bail early because there is little chance of doing well in the course. Web sites like RamRatings do not give students a clear picture because so few people have contributed their opinions. It would be simple for the university to change the questions on the evaluation to be clearer and compile information that students care about. Having somebody run the sheets through a Scantron reader then post the results online would be quick and easy feedback for students. Will such a thing happen within our lifetimes? Probably not. But until then, we have sites like RamRatings.com. Spend a few minutes and rate your old instructors. Your classmates will thank you for it.