Student Association backs RateMyProfessors.com competitor

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Registration for spring classes begins in only a few weeks and the Student Association has launched a GW page on an upstart class-ranking Web site to make the schedule of classes easier to navigate.

GW’s presence on the Web site CourseRank.com was launched last week and aims to help students find information on courses and professors before they sift through the schedule of classes. While the site is still almost empty of user-generated content, it has the potential to compete with RateMyProfessors.com, show which textbooks are required for each class, and display the class’s grade distribution.

“The goal is to provide accurate information about GW’s academic programs and have it become a valuable tool for student use,” said SA Vice President for Academic Affairs John Holsapple. “We’re also hoping to use this to implement the beta version of a degree audit system.”

Registered users of CourseRank have a wide array of information available to them to help aide in their academic planning and registration. Every course offered at GW has its own page with a course description, a list of professors teaching the course and the location and times the course is offered. The site could be a more reliable alternative to “Rate My Professors,” a high-traffic web resource offering user-submitted reviews and rankings of professors at colleges and universities across the United States.

The real benefit to students, however, could come in the user-supplied data that Holsapple hopes students will contribute. Each course page offers an overall 5-star ranking of the course, an academic grade distribution scale of past students and also written comments and reviews by past students who have taken the course.

Site administrators are able to remove unhelpful user input. In the future users may also be able to locate and purchase textbooks for courses they select and in addition to being able to upload their class notes for other users to view. It also allows users to keep track of which classes they’re currently taking and which classes they plan on taking in future semesters.

Many of the potentially most useful features on CourseRank are currently unusable due to a lack of user-inputted data, however. Newly registered users are required to submit information on three courses they have taken in order to help remedy this issue. Holsapple hopes that within a few weeks, enough users will have registered and submitted reviews to make the site a useful tool for students as they prepare for spring registration.

“Students shouldn’t have to make academic decisions in the dark. They should be able to make really accurate and informed decisions and CourseRank is designed to help them do just that,” Holsapple said.

The CourseRank software was developed originally at Stanford University but is now spreading across the United States. GW is the fifth school to adopt the site.

“We’re proud to be able to offer CourseRank as a supplement to the resources the university already offers students about GW’s academic offerings,” said SA Senator Erik Ashida, CCAS-U, who chairs the SA’s Academic Affairs Committee. “It’s a powerful site with a great deal of potential.”

Freshman Abra Katz, a student in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, was receptive to the idea.

“It’s really important to me if a teacher is good or to my liking – more so then just what a course subject is, I’d put a lot of value in something that could tell me if a teacher was good or not,” Katz said.

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