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Do you 'KnowThyProf'? Northeastern student's new website offers a RateMyProfessors alternative

Posted by Alex Pearlman  March 21, 2012 09:35 AM

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knowthyprof.pngBy Welina Farah

Sometimes the Internet isn't as accurate as we'd like to think. Take Rate My Professors, for example: Most of the students who post feedback about their professors usually have a very positive or very negative opinion. Those students whose opinions lie somewhere in the middle are rarely compelled to comment, and the few that do get lost in the din of rave reviews and/or harsh complaints. Not to mention, the professors don't get to defend themselves or make their voices heard.

"It's amusing," said Paul Merluzzo, an English professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. "Is a chili pepper really an important factor for choosing a professor?"

KnowThyProf, a 2-month-old website launched by Daniel Abram, a Northeastern sophomore majoring in economics, offers an alternative -- a chance for professors to tell potential students their side of the story and explain their teaching techniques.

"While many sites use ratings and students' opinions to characterize a professor, KnowThyProf takes a different approach," according to the website. "Students learn about the professor directly from the professor. The profile contains information that can be used by the students in many ways...[and] the professor benefits by attracting students who deliberately choose the professor's class and are interested in that professor and what he/she has to offer."

Just over 100 professors at 48 different schools, from Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., to University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as numerous local colleges, currently have profiles on the site.

"By having it open to everyone, you can see the diversity of different professors across the country and even the world," said Abrams.

Professors who create profiles have the opportunity to answer questions about their style of teaching and personal life, such as "What is one accomplishment you are proud of?" or "When grading a student, what do you look for?"

"KnowThyProf gives faculty the opportunity to say a bit about themselves and their teaching style so students who have the opportunity to select from multiple sections can potentially find a professor that best fits their style of learning," said William Crittenden, an international business professor at Northeastern.

On Rate My Professors, "there's no opportunity there to interject clarifying comments of my own," said Landy Johnson, an economics professor at Assumption College in Worcester. "There's not even any certainty that my relatively common last name won't cause me to be confused with another professor."

And that's exactly what KnowThyProf hopes will set it apart from similar sites: clarity.

"KTP is a clarifying tool," said Abrams. "It provides information that student ratings can't give. It also allows for the student to tap into a reserve of information they otherwise would not have."

Have you used KnowThyProf? What do you think of the idea?

About Welina -- I'm a UMass Boston student of sociological sorts with a Lebanese twist. I like black coffee, snarky comments, nail polish, speaking my mind (especially when it's not socially acceptable, whatever that means), social justice, reading, knitting, and Latin dancing. Yes, of course, that includes salsa.

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