Have you ever searched ratemyprofessors.com or a similar site to see how your students rank you? The results can be enlightening—or disheartening. I recently received the following comment: “Worst Professor, i ever had. Avoid him.” The problem with this bad review? It was posted under a school I haven’t taught at in years. A disgruntled student simply wanted to criticize me and used any method possible. As an online teacher, what can you do about bad reviews on professor rating sites?
The first way you can manage this problem is what I did for years…nothing. My rationale was most faculty, students and administration know that these sites don’t actually reflect the professors’ true teaching effectiveness. In academic settings, student evaluations are mainly used to identify the extreme ends of the spectrum. In other words, student evaluations help highlight the really good or really bad faculty members. But if you teach for a long time—and especially for different schools—an ever-increasing list of critical comments online starts to develop the appearance of validity, and you may be forced to act.
You can write your own feedback. This alternative seems quite unethical to me, but I know some of my colleagues do it. I’ve seen some very well-crafted, PhD-level positive reviews written by supposed undergraduates. I can’t personally recommend this approach simply on ethical grounds.
As many of these professor review sites now give faculty rebuttal opportunities, your third option is to refute the complaints. The downside is that this approach can be very time consuming, especially if you teach full-time.
A fourth method for handling bad reviews on professor rating sites is to post actual student evaluations on your personal website. If you don’t have a personal site, consider using a school site. Once you’ve uploaded your student evaluations, you can then link to these real-life reviews on your faculty rebuttal page. I leave comments on my page such as, “If you would like to see my real student evaluations, visit markarevels.com.” This shows that you are trying to be honest and reasonable (plus, it drives traffic to your website!). Having real evaluations on your personal website will hopefully be enough to explain that you are really not the “worst professor" ever!
About the Author: Mark Revels, PhD, is an assistant professor of computer information systems at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. He is a technology educator, researcher and professional with 30 years of progressive experience including biomedical and hospital physical plant systems management; development and management of decision support, inventory control and logistics systems; and development and management of core manufacturing systems for multiple international manufacturers. He holds a doctorate in technology management from Indiana State University. Visit his site at markarevels.com.