Shelter from the storm

Three years ago at this time I figured out one of the keys to succeeding in college: Learn how to navigate around and utilize

All students should heed this advice come registration season. Bookmark it on your browser and thank the universe every morning for its existence. It is the holy grail of academic tools.

For those that need a synopsis of what this lifesaving site offers, it’s really quite simple. The site lists the nation’s colleges and universities and stores profiles of every professor — adjunct and tenured — that each institution employs. Students can log in and rate professors they’ve had in categories like clarity and helpfulness. Students can also leave comments about the class they took with that professor and offer advice based on their personal experiences.

In short, allows students to design the best possible class schedule by avoiding professors that may negatively affect their transcripts.

There is of course another opinion of the site contrary to mine. Those who don’t support the website are typically — you guessed it — professors. This is understandable, as there are a number of initial reasons why professors might hate

If you’re a student, envision a website geared towards your professors and orientated around assessing you and your peers’ intellects and performance in the classroom. The website’s philosophy claims to help professors “prepare” as they look over the students who are registered in their classes for the semester. This would essentially be in reverse, and it would probably make most students cringe.

Many professors probably disagree with the idea of students opting to take only the “easy” teachers. This opinion uses the logic that if a class isn’t challenging, it isn’t productive. is a lazy cop out, they say, and it doesn’t reward professors who work hard to challenge and stimulate their students.

With many of the professors I’ve talked to, there is also some concern over the validity of the ratings. Professors might feel that this website inaccurately depicts the classroom environment they maintain. It makes sense that a professor may feel that it is a superficial review of them as professors and that it unfairly hinders their academic reputations.

Fair enough. These points are valid, and I fully agree that it is impossible for the site to perfectly evaluate each and every professor (especially considering the unique opinions and experiences of each individual student).

Furthermore, it must be a hard service to adjust to for professors who did not have this kind of service available when they were students. It is a brand new paradigm for how students assess their class options every semester.

But for every reason that professors might have for disagreeing with the idea of a site like, there is a corresponding reason that students have for worshiping it, and for why professors should reconsider quickly dismissing it.

The biggest benefit of the site is that students can go and see which professors have been validated by their peers. Good ratings alone provide reassurance that the professor in question is good at his or her job, and in my experience the site’s ranking almost always matches up with my own assessment of the professors I’ve taken.

In an ideal world, every professor who steps foot in a classroom would teach with enthusiasm and be compelling, passionate, interactive and incredibly knowledgeable on their discipline. But this is not the case. To argue otherwise would be without merit.

In every profession there are many individuals that do their jobs well, some that do their jobs brilliantly, and some that generally underperform. In the medical field we get second opinions before operations; When we dine out we check restaurant reviews and ratings; When we need a plumber we get references from friends and search for feedback online. is no different.

Education is about developing the intellect and preparing for a career, but it is also a business. The classes and professors are the service of an educational institution, and as customers who are paying a premium price to learn from these professors, students highly benefit from sites like that can improve their experience in the classroom.

I would argue that this site should not represent an annoyance or hindrance to professors: rather, it should be used as a tool for improving teaching skills. There is no better source available to modern professors to find out what their students really think of them. If a professor is serious about being the best they can be, acknowledging this site is a must. is not about laziness or shortcuts — it’s about having the best educational experience possible. Just as there will always be tenured professors who have lost the flame for teaching and young adjuncts who have barely mastered their subjects, there will also always be lazy students who don’t seriously care about their education.

It works both ways, but for those professors and students who are serious about education, provides a chance for teachers to grow and students to be fully prepared. It is a small instrument in the sometimes overwhelming world of academia, and I couldn’t be happier that it exists.