Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased?

classroom-1910014_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors David Ackerman of California State University Northridge and Christina Chung of Ramapo College of New Jersey. They recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled “Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased? A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for conducting this research:]

JME(D)_72ppiRGB_powerpointOur paper “Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased?: A Look at the Impact of Social Modelling on Student Online Reviews of Marketing Classes” was definitely motivated by personal experience. My colleagues and I early on noticed that there was a huge mismatch between the one or two student ratings per semester on online rating sites such as RMP and the 100 or more ratings from the student evaluation measures collected at our universities. Some seemed to hit it right. They had a great rating or two and then subsequent ratings were good. Others seemed to hit it wrong, with a really bad rating or two from a student unhappy with his or her grade and then subsequent ratings were bad.

We compared SEMs and found those who had both good and bad RMP ratings all had good SEMs. Those were my personal observations though I know there has been some research suggesting that RMP can be similar to SEMs and some suggesting the opposite. I didn’t look into it at the time because I felt sites like RMP provide a place for students to vent their anger or express their happiness, kind of like a virtual public bathroom stall.

An external event that sparked this specific research paper was the rise of “social media mobs.” Groups of anonymous raters would attack a rating site and leave a lot of negative ratings about a particular business, product or service. Though most of these raters were anonymous, the ratings depressed future ratings that were posted. Before the attack, ratings might be moderate to positive, but afterward, primarily negative ratings would be posted.

So, my colleague and I set out to see if this pattern held in online teaching ratings and it did. The results of this study suggest that several highly positive or negative ratings have an oversized influence on subsequent ratings, who model the previous ratings, which can compromise the validity of the ratings. We are also looking into whether they also influence the willingness of people to do an online rating if their views are contrary to the prevailing positive or negative salient reviews. These results suggest that rating sites should do all they can to remove unverified ratings, especially if they are extremely negative or positive to maintain the validity and integrity of their rating system.

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Classroom photo attributed to Wokandapix. (CC)

This entry was posted in Education, higher education, Teaching & Learning and tagged , , , , , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

One thought on “Is RateMyProfessors.com Unbiased?

  1. Pingback: The Psychology of Online Professor Ratings | mediainmind

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