Online ratings deficient


    As pointed out in the recent article about, the web site allows anonymous submissions of student feedback on teachers.

    It should go without saying that the data on that site is totally unreliable, since nothing stops a disgruntled student from submitting multiple

    negative submissions for the same teacher.

    In addition, a teacher could log in and give himself positive feedbacks. In fact, anyone in the

    world, whether he is or is not affiliated with the university or the professor, can leave feedback for anyone else.

    The FAQ section of points out that the ratings on their site should be taken “with a grain of salt” for this reason.

    The paper forms that BYU has been phasing out are a slightly better form of feedback, because only those students sitting in the classroom can get the forms and put them into the envelope.

    Of course, a disgruntled student could grab multiple forms and submit multiple negative ratings, or he could volunteer to deliver the envelope to the Testing Center and then conveniently “forget” to actually deliver it. A lack of student ratings for any given class would

    reflect poorly on any professor who is being reviewed for tenure.

    In addition, it is likely that your professor has a collection of papers with your handwriting on them; it would not be difficult for a professor to figure out who you are based on your handwriting.

    The new online submissions address many of these issues, with one major deficiency. You completely surrender your anonymity to the

    administration when you use it.

    The administration, of course, promises to keep your identity secret from the professors when they

    forward your ratings on to them. You must then trust that their computer databases, along with all of the people who administrate them or who will administrate them, are and always will be completely secure and trustworthy.

    In my personal experience with computer and

    network security, this is a lot to assume.

    Many students may not be aware of these issues. There are sound technological approaches to allowing students to leave truly anonymous

    feedback for their teachers.

    If the students demand it, then the BYU administration may look into using this technology.

    In the meantime, be mindful of the fact that you are not only trusting some members of the university’s administration to keep your identity secret from other members of the administration when you rate them, but you are also trusting that their databases are and always will be secure

    against security breaches.

    Michael Halcrow

    Austin, TX

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