“I think young people are savvy enough to know that this type of feedback is highly unreliable,” said Aron Goldman, an instructor at the Amherst College Center for Community Engagement in Massachusetts, adding that many RateMyProfessor reviews are just a few words about a professor being a lenient grader or a quiet talker. “It can be entertaining, but that’s about it.”

RateMyProfessor was launched in 1999 as TeacherRatings.com, with a ratings system that lets students give a 1-5 mark to professors and their classes and limits comments to 350 characters or less.

Students also can designate educators as “hot” or “not” – indicating their attractiveness with digital chili peppers.

Some educators conceded that high school and college students will use RateMyProfessor and similar websites – such as RateYourProf or ProfessorPerformance – when deciding which campus to attend next fall, just as someone in the market for a new TV would scan consumer sites in search of ratings and customer comments.

“Students hopefully want to have the best experience in class and I believe they are going to do their research if options are available,” said Aaron Doering, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. “The caution with any of this is that one must ask what motivates someone to make these postings? Are individuals more motivated to post something when they are not satisfied? Many times, it seems that is the case and thus, not a true representation of what may be happening in the classroom.”

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