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On bias in social reviews of university courses

by   Taha Hassan, et al.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

University course ranking forums are a popular means of disseminating information about satisfaction with the quality of course content and instruction, especially with undergraduate students. A variety of policy decisions by university administrators, instructional designers and teaching staff affect how students perceive the efficacy of pedagogies employed in a given course, in class and online. While there is a large body of research on qualitative driving factors behind the use of academic rating sites, there is little investigation of the (potential) implicit student bias on said forums towards desirable course outcomes at the institution level. To that end, we examine the connection between course outcomes (student-reported GPA) and the overall ranking of the primary course instructor, as well as rating disparity by nature of course outcomes, for several hundred courses taught at Virginia Tech based on data collected from a popular academic rating forum. We also replicate our analysis for several public universities across the US. Our experiments indicate that there is a discernible albeit complex bias towards course outcomes in the professor ratings registered by students.


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