Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Laurel Graham.

Co-Major Professor

Jennifer Friedman

Keywords

College, Consumerism, Internet, Teaching evaluations

Abstract

I would have been better off using the tuition money to heat my apartment last winter.Three of my friends got As in his class and my friends are dumb.The movies are so bad, even he has to leave the room.These are just a few of the Funny Ratings from a page on RateMyProfessors.com, a web site dedicated to providing information to students so they may make a difference in (their) education (http://www.RateMyProfessors.com/ faq.jsp). The online evaluations differ in origin, use and content from traditional teaching evaluations as they are the result of a virtual atmosphere created for students and perpetuated by students, where comments and ratings are instantaneously available to anyone with Internet access for application and critique.

This paper includes a review of literature on the rationalization of the university system, on the image of students as reluctant consumers, on the use and future of traditional teaching evaluations, and on previous attempts to obtain data from web sites. Through a content analysis of RateMyProfessors.com, I observe evidence that students have discovered a new way of participating in their education. Instead of being the property of professors and schools, these online evaluations reveal for anyone some popular ideas of what constitutes a good course and a good professor. The categories created by the students differ in subtle but important ways from traditional teaching evaluations. While traditional evaluations give professors and administrators insight on teaching effectiveness, these online evaluations act more as advice columns and mini-syllabi for future students.

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