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Kaplan survey

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Before enrolling in a class, students at American colleges oftentimes visit popular Web sites such as ratemyprofessors.com to view student reviews on their potential instructors.

According to a study released by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, such sites are impacting the academic environment in several colleges.

“Our research shows that many of today’s college students are looking at multiple factors when picking out courses; overall teacher quality that will result in a good learning experience, but also instructors who don’t like to award a lot of Cs and Ds,” said Jeff Olson, vice president of research at Kaplan Test Prep.  “While it makes sense that students would opt for more lenient graders, it also helps explain the recent prevalence of grade inflation.”

The study, which consisted of a survey administered to 1,229 active students and recent college graduates, concluded that 46 percent of students who visit such sites based their decision to take a course on the grading reputation of a professor.

According to Kaplan, the most popular aspect of such Web sites is simply the peer opinions that are written and posted by other students.

Of the several categories under which a professor can be rated, the survey found that 77 percent of respondents said that “prior student comments about the professor” was the most considered factor in making the decision to take a class.

70 percent of students selected “the overall quality of a professor” as the second most considered factor, while the third, “easy grading reputation”, was selected by 66 percent of respondents.

According to Kaplan, a Duke University study stated that the average GPA at American colleges has increased from 2.93 in 1991, to 3.11 in 2006.

William Green, the University of Miami dean of undergraduate education, could not be reached for comment.

“I think it’s a good tool for students to get a feel to get handle on the type of teaching style that professors have. I looked at it a couple times but I don’t take it as the whole truth,” said Tim Hulsker, Student Government representative to the board of trustees Academic Affairs Committee at UM. “On the site you’ll see comments like ‘Oh this is the worst professor I’ve ever had’ or ‘this is the best professor I’ve ever had.’ The truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

Ramon Galiana may be contacted at rgaliana@themiamihurricane.com.

OTHER SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

*  On a scale of 1 – 10, with 0 being “Not at all reliable” and 10 being “Very reliable,” students consider RateMyProfessors to be more reliable than not, with an average ranking of 5.8

* Only 8% of students who visit professor rating sites say that writing a review is the primary reason they log on; 71% says it’s to select classes.

* Just 3% of students say that a professor’s “hotness” factors into their decision of which classes to take.

* Pre-Law students place a much higher premium on how engaging an instructor is (73%) than Pre-Med students do (57%).

March 10, 2010

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Ramon Galiana

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