Online teacher 'ratings' tell all

Two students at California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, have created a Web site that lets students know what a course - and its professor - will be like before they sign up for it.

Seniors Forrest Lanning and Doug Dahms created "Polyratings," where about 400 of Cal Poly's 1,000 full-time faculty members have been anonymously critiqued. The site posts biting and earnest student evaluations of the faculty. Some professors have been offended while others like the site. Mr. Lanning and Mr. Dahms say it grew out of their interest in computers and their frustration with bad professors. Lanning says he doubts the site will change teaching techniques and sees its main value as a student guide.

Meanwhile, Cal Poly is considering putting teacher evaluations online, using passwords and ID numbers to keep out bogus reviews. Under growing pressure to make public the typically confidential, in-class evaluations, some institutions, such as Stanford and the University of Washington, have already started posting them on the Web.

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