by Julie Joseph
Commerce Professor Gerry Korda already knows what her students think of her course: they think it's a winner. When she visited the Profscan Web site, she saw that she had received a 90-per-cent rating in nearly all of the six categories of the online evaluation.
One gushing student even remarked that Korda was the aunt he or she had always wanted, a surprising statement considering the subject she teaches -- statistics. "That certainly put a smile on my face," she said.
Profscan is the brainchild of Bill Klein and Ben Ford-Mattes, two Computer Science students who invite students to evaluate the performance of their instructors and get the opinions of others before choosing a course. You can find Profscan at http://profscan.com
Klein said he and Mattes made the decision to go ahead with the site because students are denied access to the evaluations done by the University, and the policy is unlikely to change.
The appearance of the Web site, which was featured in a Gazette article this wi nter, upset some faculty members, however. "We got a lot of e-mails from professors who were concerned [that Profscan] would give students who failed a course a way to get back at the teacher," Klein admitted, "but at the same time, we also received a lot of positive feedback from faculty members."
Klein said that he and Mattes weed out malicious comments, and that Profscan has security built in to prevent students from submitting more than one rating for the same teacher.
"In general, it's easy to spot entries that aren't on the up and up," Klein said. They're basically the entries with either extremely positive marks or extremely negative ones. We're able to screen for simple things like that."
Professor Korda would like to see the publication of reliable ratings of professors, but she minimizes the value of such a small number of entries as those on Profscan. The statistician in her doubts that students who don't have a teacher to champion or an axe to grind will bother going online. "If I really liked a teacher, or I really, really disliked a teacher, then I could see myself making the effort to get the word out."
Profscan isn't the first attempt by students to try to establish their own teacher evaluations. Linda Church, coordinator for the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services, which processes the official evaluations, recalled that several years ago, the Concordia Student Union did something similar by publishing evaluations, but this effort was short-lived.
Church believes that students should have more access to the evaluations, but insists they should try to work in the system and take the official evaluations more seriously.