In the prior version of the site the ratings weren’t very informative, so users derived the bulk of their
information entertainment from generalized comments.
There are four kinds of comments:
Care to guess which one most people leave? It may surprise you, but it’s #1. The rest follow in order of magnitude, and therein lies the problem. Of all four categories, in RMT’s case only the last one has any meaningful value to the next student.
In addition, the way in which most platforms besides social media are dealing with comments is changing, and not everybody is happy about it.
New Internet Laws
RMT operates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Both the UK and Ireland fall within the European Union, which drastically changed the laws governing websites in May 2018.
In the EU it is unlawful to even post a person’s name on a site without their consent. That is why when a student logs into the site from the EU, they are allowed to rate a course, but not a teacher. Sadly this meant we had to remove lots of great teachers from the site. We look forward to new course reviews as time goes on.
In the US, content moderation has grown more challenging. Major sites including ESPN, CNN, The Atlantic, NPR, Radio New Zealand, and others have turned off comments completely. While we don’t want to do that, we understand why they’ve chosen that path.
Free-for-all comments are like rubbernecking on the highway; a little dopamine rush that we know is not good for us but is almost irresistible. There are real people behind the screen, though, and in the case of social media, some of their contract moderators are dealing with depression and PTSD from some of the content they have to moderate. In addition, it is very costly. At RMT, moderation is our largest expense by far.
More importantly we want Owen (our mascot) to be able to show his face proudly to students, teachers, and schools. The new survey is designed to share things that provide value to any student going into the course. When a new version of the survey has been completed, that’s what will appear. Until then, the prior results will appear. Will it take some time to collect enough new survey results to have real significance? Yes. Will it be worth it in the long run? Also yes.
Old Comments’ Status
A lot of teachers have written to us that they wish they had their old comments. We also received a lot of mail from teachers relieved that comments were removed.
The site had collected millions of comments over the years, and we simply didn’t have the resources to review each one to determine if it would fit with the new policy and remain complaint with the law.
We are so, so sorry, but there was no way we could endure while keeping the years of free-for-all comments. The liability was simply too great.
To endure, RMT has to be re-populated with new surveys and comments. If you love a teacher or had a lousy experience, we made sure that students can still offer an overall experience rating on a scale from Poor to Excellent. That way students can express their views without creating liability for themselves.
In the prior version of the site parents had the ability to post reviews of teachers. We no longer permit this, as it was used most often as a means for parents to flame teachers they didn’t like. This is not the forum for that, and is not in keeping with the mission of the site. In addition, a parent would not have enough information to answer the new survey questions with the same accuracy as a student.
We do allow parents to register accounts so they can flag comments if they would like.
You Can’t Please Everyone, But You Don’t Need To
With so many users there is absolutely no way to please everyone. There are some who will (and do!) say that no matter what we do, anything new sucks. They want the ability to write whatever they want, unfiltered and unchecked, and to see what others write in the same way. We wonder if they would feel the same way if there was a site called ratemystudents that let teachers write whatever they pleased about their students. Oh wait 🙂
We’re just human beings doing our level best to make a site that over time will prove useful, and equally important, civil, to both students and teachers.
So…life is hard. Be nice. And if you can’t be nice, don’t be mean, be helpful.