Definitions

prof

Pick-A-Prof

Pick-A-Prof is an online website found at www.pickaprof.com that hosts professor reviews and other academic tools and services for university students and professors. The website allows students to enter a professor's name and find out how they have been rated in a variety of categories and read excerpts about them. The company was founded in April 2000 by John Cunningham, Chris Chilek, Texas A&M University alumni and Karen Bragg, University of Texas alum. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has services available to 294 colleges and universities across the United States (as of October 17, 2007).

The site hosts a large and active message board community. The site allows students to include information for other students in sections labeled “strengths” and “drawbacks.” Every course listed on the site has a "review" section or board for discussion where students share their experience of a particular course and its' professor. "Reviews" on this site usually focus on teaching style of professors, homework load, type and number of exams, and overall "evaluation" from a students perspective of the class and professor. The reviews are submitted by volunteer students and contributions are read and posted by Pick-A-Prof

This site also features, professors’ grading patterns, university course schedules, schedule planner, degree planners, and book exchange programs.

Grade histories

The site posts grade histories of professors. The grade history graphs display the distribution of grades from A’s to F’s.

This feature displays the semester(s) a professor teaches a particular course and the average GPA each professor gives in that course. While searching for a course, the site shows the professors teaching the course, a 5-star rating system (an overall average of student ratings for a professor), the number of student reviews submitted for each professor and the percentage of students who dropped the class.

Professor Support System

Professor Support System is a feature on the Pick-A-Prof site. This feature was designed for professors to post their syllabi and biographical information on the site prior to registration, and furthermore use this feature to make their own course evaluations or respond to any posted student evaluation which may be directed toward them. The site implemented this feature with the intention that Professors believe that Pick-A-Prof was not a site solely dedicated to students. .

Criticism

Professors and students have differing views about the website. While some find it useful, others believe it may not be a right tool to pick classes. Brian Bremen, an English associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, believes that the type of feedback found in Pick-a-Prof reviews can be important for faculty. "A professor can certainly learn a lot about themselves on Pick-a-Prof, and in some cases, the criticism I have found online has made me a slightly better teacher," Bremen said.

The New York Times reports that students using the website “are enthusiastic, saying it is almost like having Consumer Reports ratings on professors.”

Many professors say the website portrays their courses unfairly and students will hesitate to take their classes if the grade distribution reported on Pick-A-Prof does not match their definition of earning an “easy A.” Edward Nuhfer says that both Pickaprof.com and RateMyProfessors.com "are transparently obvious in their advocacy that describes a 'good teacher' as an easy grader. The former site proudly displays the quote: '...the most vital academic tool[s] to students seeking good grades.' Karen Bragg, Director of University Relations at Pick-A-Prof, believes that there will always be students seeking an “easy A."

There are also criticisms of the website reviews written by students being offensive to professors. Pick-A-Prof, although controversial, claims that its website and policies follow the law. It has even won a court case against University of California, Davis to release professors’ grades.

External links

5 New York Times article Lewin, Tamar, New York Times, 3/24/03

References

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