Research for registration: Rate My Professor upheld as student resource

As winter quarter registration looms ever closer, students are left scrambling for an ounce of control amidst course carts and restrictive scheduling. Seats are being filled, options are too wide or too slim, and many are left to wade through the trenches. Yet, through the despair and stress gleams a shimmer of hope: Rate My Professor. 

The online rating website has been a dependable method for students to get ahead of the curve for decades, using voluntary reviews to determine if a professor matches their learning style. The website boasts over 19 million ratings for more than 7,500 schools, including DePaul.

“Every time I sign up for classes, I would thoroughly look through the website to see if the class is a good fit for me,” said DePaul sophomore Tony Huang. “If you have a bad professor, or a professor with ratings that don’t suit your personal study methods, I think it would be terrible and hard to pass the class.”

Huang cites Rate My Professor as a reliable source to learn more about a professor, and says numerous bad ratings can impact his decision to take a class or not. 

Although all of his friends use the platform, junior Alexis Gomez holds a different perspective. 

“I’ve definitely had the opportunity to look into it and use it, but I’ve never felt the need or felt compelled,” Gomez said. “My program is tight so there’s not much flexibility with my degree program or the way I’ve structured my career at DePaul. The professor’s rating doesn’t mean that much to me because I usually have to do whatever I can.”

Gomez is an American studies major with a triple minor in LGBTQ+ studies, Latin American and Latino studies and public law and political thought. As a commuter student, they believe the challenges of being involved and present on-campus also affect how they make course decisions and the importance of professors when registering. Ultimately, they do see benefits of the website even if it is not a useful tool for them.

“There are definitely professors where had I looked at Rate My Professor and read about their teaching styles and the experiences for students in those classrooms, perhaps I would have postponed that class or taken a different one,” Gomez said. “My experiences could have been different or better, but it is what it is, and I’ve pushed through it.”

Michael Gallaway, a professor in the writing, rhetoric and discourse department boasts a 4.5/5 rating on the website and admits to both looking at his own ratings and using the website during his own undergraduate and masters programs. He believes professors may benefit from looking at their own ratings as a mood-booster or as a way to catch things that were not covered in their online teaching evaluations to help improve their teaching. 

Gallaway simultaneously argues that professors may find looking at their own ratings to be anxiety-inducing and could put unnecessary pressure on them to change teaching habits based on feedback from only a small portion of students.

“I don’t alter my teaching methods based on what people say,” Gallaway said. “Oftentimes, you can get a good idea about how a professor teaches by the feedback given on that site. Even though someone may give a negative piece of feedback, sometimes it’s just personal preference.”

Gallaway believes that students may be more honest on Rate My Professor when compared to university-sanctioned evaluations. Although professors let students know these surveys are entirely anonymous, Gallaway thinks students’ doubt may impact their ratings. 

Huang holds a similar view, claiming that the anonymity Rate My Professor allows makes students more likely to write a more authentic review on the class and professor.

“Students voluntarily go to Rate My Professor and have the incentive to actually think about their experiences rather than a school survey that they just want to get through quickly while checking random boxes,” Huang said.

When browsing the reviews for a better understanding of a professor’s teaching methods, it is important to understand that bad reviews do not always show the whole picture. While Rate My Professor can be a helpful tool, it can only truly help propel student success when they can make their own personal judgments and take the information given with a critical lens. 

“Just because a review is negative does not necessarily mean it’s not helpful for you,” Gallaway said. “Maybe that particular student did not have the best experience, but the way that they talk about the class can give you the individual ability to decide if it would suit you.”