Are teachers making the grade with students?

Deciding which course to take is not always easy. Deciding which professor to take can be even harder. Being well-informed of one’s options is extremely important before a good decision can be made and a regrettable one avoided. Besides asking friend or acquaintances for suggestions, some students have online teacher evaluations made available to them by their schools.

Deciding which course to take is not always easy. Deciding which professor to take can be even harder. Being well-informed of one’s options is extremely important before a good decision can be made and a regrettable one avoided. Besides asking friend or acquaintances for suggestions, some students have online teacher evaluations made available to them by their schools.
While such online evaluations are not a new invention, Kasey Kerber, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, decided to take things up a notch in February 2001. His brainchild is MyProfessorSucks.com.
Following a beta form launch on June 3, 2001, Kerber’s website made its official Internet debut on Aug. 1, 2001. Appearing on the site are more than 3,000 colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools in the United States and Canada.
Due to the more than 127,000 visitors since the June launch, this has made MyProfessorSucks.com one of the fastest-growing college Internet websites. Kerber says that the site averages 13,000 visitors per week and around 53,000 visitors per month.
Both the founder and president of MyProfessorSucks.com, Kerber enlisted the help of two friends from the University of Florida and his future wife, a student at the University of Nebraska, to help create the student-run site.
He believes the site to be a valuable resource for students in order to make better and more well-informed choices. “Previously you had to rely on word-of-mouth or hope one of your friends had the professor in question.
“With MyProfessorSucks.com, you can view what fellow students have to say about that professor, and you can also leave evaluations of your own to assist students who are considering professors you have taken,” he says.
The reason for starting up MyProfessorSucks.com is quite simple. “I came up with the idea for the site after taking a lousy night course,” admits Kerber.
“The professor, I truly believe, was a complete moron. I remember coming home one night, plopping down on my couch, and thinking, ‘I wish there was some way I could have known.'”
After his unpleasant experience, he was inspired to help fellow students avoid making the same mistake. His choosing such a controversial website name has been done for an even simpler reason. “I was looking for something that would be easy to remember but also have a bit of a bite to it. Besides, all of us have had at least one professor that just plain sucked.”
An important thing to be aware of is that no registration is necessary in order to read or post evaluations since it is an anonymous process. A letter grade system is used that places professors who receive a mark in the A+ to B+ range automatically in an A+ club, and the site grades on a curve.
A second section of the evaluation addresses the issue of subjectivity and attempts to avoid it. Kerber says that students choose from 15 “positive” or “negative” characteristics to describe their professor, and this allows other students to know why a student graded a professor the way he or she did.
After receiving quite a few E-mails from Canadian student users, he and the MyProfessorSucks.com gang decided to give access to Canadians. On March 14, 2002, over 500 Canadian colleges and universities were given this access.
A surprising thing Kerber reveals about the website is that most professors he and his crew have been in contact with are very supportive of the site and its purpose. “I think many professors understand the reason our site was created and realize that criticism and praise are simply part of their jobs,” he says. He also acknowledges that on the basis of professors’ suggestions, there have been many improvements implemented on the site.
A date for evaluations and a subject for each professor are a few of the improvements that have been made. For accuracy and integrity, time-stamping evaluations also came into existence.
Another feat to be proud of is that Kerber says that to date no college or university’s administration have contacted his people in regards to MyProfessorSucks.com.
He has spoken with student government officials at a few schools mainly because of their interest in starting their own professor evaluation websites.
“The challenge in doing that, I explained, is that it is extremely difficult to receive university funding and/or web services and also establish a web page that could lead to the criticism of several university professors.
University administration would have a lot of influence in such circumstances over what you might or might not be allowed to do,” he points out. Consequently, his website does not have to worry about such things. “By being an independent website with no ties to any college or university, MyProfessorSucks.com does not have the same pressures placed upon it,” he says.
In addition to being able to read and/or post professor evaluations, the website also enables students to be able to register to win one of more than 1,212 prizes offered. Students are offered prepaid calling cards or condoms because of a calls and condoms contest. Those who receive MyProfessorSucks.com fliers will be rewarded with winning prize codes because of a flier contest. Also there are weekly polls one can take part in and e-Postcards that can be sent to friends.
A former Assignment /Opinion/Night News Editor at The Daily Nebraskan, Kerber is no stranger to print journalism, and one can read his weekly humour column entitled “Kasey on College” or send questions to the hilarious Q & A feature entitled “Just Ask Ross.”
Taking into account both the success of the website and the fact that fellow students are benefiting from the site, Kerber is extremely pleased with the results. “It feels great to be working on a site that truly helps students,” he says.
“Every once in a while I’ll get an email from a user who rates 20 [plus] professors because they want to help future students out or from a user who has made a better decision after reading the evaluations on our site. It gives me satisfaction knowing that every evaluation posted to our site could help countless students who may view it in the future.”
So, if you are ever in the mood to help out future students pick out the good teachers and leave aside the bad then visit this website at www.MyprofessorSucks.com.

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