It’s a college course, not online dating

Columnist

Have you heard about RateMyProfessor.com? It’s a “Consumer Reports” for college instructors.  

Simply type your professor or school into the search box, click the button and you’ll have reviews and grades from people who have taken courses with that particular individual.

Unfortunately, there are only two types of people who would actually bother to rate an instructor:  the bitterly disappointed student who failed and has an axe to grind, and the deliriously happy student who would give a good report to General Custer because “he tried really hard.”

This causes the reviews to swing wildly between “best professor ever” and “the professor is an evil incarnate.”  So, it’s pretty much useless as a rating tool.  But, hey, it has a “hotness” meter, so, at least there’s that.

What is really needed is a more detailed classification system; a simple set of acronyms that can convey the things a prospective student really needs to know.

My ideal system might look more akin to this:

GWVSI – GTA With Very Specific Interest:  A GWVSI is a graduate teaching assistant who has an obscure interest in the field and will try to work it into the lesson plan as often as possible.

Sample Quote:  “I think this would be a good time to compare and contrast the larval stage of the Balinese Pill Bug with human embryo development.”

TTW – Tends To Wander:  An instructor described with TTW likes to get off the beaten path of academia … way off.

Sample Quote:  “… and that’s why Jeri Ryan accepting the role of Seven of Nine on Star Trek:  Voyager led directly to Barack Obama becoming president.”

ECOPP – Entire Class On Power Point:  The ECOPP instructor has embraced the digital age a little too wholeheartedly.  Every lecture consists of reading directly from slides.  Since you read faster than he talks, this frees you up to pursue other interests between slides – like writing a humor column for your school newspaper.

PTA – Pet Theory Advocate:  Almost invariably a tenured professor, the PTA has a theory that she believes will revolutionize her field, if she could just work it over in her mind a bit.  She will do this by using your class as a sounding board.  The PTA can be fascinating if you have an interest in the subject; for a survey course – not so much.

Sample Quote:  “Yes, Steve, the answer is quartz.  But, let us consider … what if Bowen’s Reaction Series is wrong?”

NMC – No Multiple Choice:  The NMC instructor can quickly be identified by their stack of Scantron forms with an inch-thick coating of dust.  Your only hope is that he’s a big fan of matching and fill-in-the-blank questions.  Otherwise, you’re just going to have to learn this stuff. 

WMYL – Will Make You Learn:  All of the above instructors can be, and often are, members of the WMYL subset.  The GWVSI gave you a perspective that allowed real comprehension instead of mere memorization that would be purged after test time.  The TTW showed you connections between topics you’d never considered.  The ECOPP made sure you had maximized access to class resources and materials around the clock, so learning could fit your schedule.  The PTA built your base knowledge quickly, by encouraging questions and asking her own.  The NMC ensured that you left his class not only knowing the material but retaining a great deal of it as well.

We are fortunate to have so many WMYLs at Wichita State.