Statistics professors shares thoughts on the site
Q: Today, we’re interviewing Professor Jared Ashby of the Statistics Department, Case Western Reserve University’s most avid user of RateMyStudents.com. So, tell us Professor Ashby, how are you finding the website?
A: Oh, it’s a wonderful tool. I can’t tell you how it’s made my life simpler. I no longer have to spend half the semester weeding out the rising stars amidst the rabble. I know from the start on which students I should focus my efforts. I can format my classes to appeal to those with the best attendance records. I can stand on the side of the classroom where I know the best students sit. Oh, and best, I now write three versions of my tests: one for those who have read the materials but never attended lectures, another for those who actively participated in class and, finally, a version for the students who did nothing. That way I ensure everyone passes my class and I never have to see them again.
Q: How clever. What do you put in the tests for those who don’t read and don’t come to lecture?
A: Oh, those exams are the simplest to write. Half the questions are about things they can directly observe during the exam, such as “What percentage of the students have dark hair?” or “How many of the students look confused or distressed? or “What is the likelihood of failure if predictors of poor scores include having a light hair color and being in distress during the exam?” To some extent, these questions do have some statistical elements to them. And since a “look of distress” is entirely subjective, every answer given, by default, has to be correct. It’s a win-win all around. In any case, I find them much better than the “easy” exam version distributed by the English Department. Most of those questions are trivia about Harry Potter. What the professors don’t realize is that there’s still a high chance students will fail, since they grade them based on the books and not the movies. A novice mistake—never ask a question on which the answer can only be found in a book.
Q: Ah, yes. I see. Very efficient. It’s good to know that students at CWRU are getting a high-quality education. So, how about the crux of the website: the rating system. We as students know the chili peppers of RateMyProfessors.com are usually spot on—but how accurate do you find the number of handcuffs on RateMyStudents?
A: Perfectly accurate. In fact, all the students who earn an average of five handcuffs end up either expelled or otherwise missing by mid-semester. Although, I do suspect that part of the reason is due to CWRU’s Academic Integrity Board keeping tabs on students with high handcuff ratings.
Q: Good to know that the website is finding popularity outside its target audience. And are there other features you’ve found particularly useful?
A: Indeed. I love how the website pulls in social network information to show a chart of related students. It’s been instrumental in helping us uncover cheating rings. I’ve also found it useful for identifying the teachers’ pets in my classes. It lets me know from day one which students I can assign to do extra tasks without having to bog down my teaching assistants with menial labor. For any professors not yet using RateMyStudents, I highly recommend they at least take a look. I think they’ll find it’s worth their while.