Website facilitates course selection by providing virtual lectures

Each semester, Tech students use websites such as Course Critique and Pick-a-Prof to determine the quality of the professors who are teaching their classes.

Many students decide which classes to take based on the professor’s grade point average. Other students rely on word-of-mouth when choosing their professors and classes. While some may feel as though GPA statistics and friends’ opinions are accurate measurements of a professor’s teaching qualities, others disagree.

Nathan Black, EE ’09, and Greg Koo, EE grad student, took a different approach when it came to registering for classes. Black and Koo cared about teaching quality, enthusiasm and effectiveness of a professor, so they relied on themselves to seek out the best professors.

“Knowing the impact a good or bad professor can have, we were disturbed that the only criteria for selecting a professor was subjective word-of-mouth and GPA stats, which can be surprisingly poor indicators of a professor’s teaching ability. It was this “cross your fingers and pick a professor” method that drove us to look for a solution,” Black said.

“Each semester when it came time to register for classes, both Greg and I would sit in on multiple classes to personally experience how each professor taught,” Black said. “This allowed us to make more educated decisions about which professors taught well.”

Black and Koo realized that there were other students who shared their interest in seeking out the best professors but didn’t have the time to sit in on different lectures. Thus, Black and Koo created . SitInLecture.com is a website that provides Tech students with a new decision-making resource when registering for classes with multiple instructor offerings. The website currently offers audio recordings from over 60 professor’s classes across 17 departments.

“Students can now ‘virtually sit in’ on classes before registering and listen to professor teaching and analyze his or her enthusiasm, passion, dynamics, class involvement and other characteristics that SGA’s Course Critique or friends fail to provide,” Black said.

“In addition to the lecture audio clips provided, there are also comment boxes where former or current students review professors in their own words,” said Black.

Black and Koo both go into classrooms and record the lectures. They pick a good, representative sample of the professor’s teaching style and feature that sample on the website. While tedious, this method of recording ensures consistent, high-quality recordings.

“What you hear on the recording is exactly what you’d hear if you were sitting right there in class,” Black said.

No consent is necessary from professors to take audio recordings of their lectures which is in compliance with the Fair Use guidelines, which states that a portion of any copyrighted material may be reproduced for the purpose of education, critique and comment. Both faculty and student feedback have been overwhelmingly positive.

“This site was extremely helpful. I really like bring able to preview classes before I actually pick them. I’ll definitely be using it from now on,” said Patrick Hunter, second-year MGT.

“SitInLecture adds a different dimension that Course Critique and RateMyProfessor does not offer. Although having statistical data about the distribution of grades and descriptions of teachers are helpful, sometimes it helps to hear the way they teach and listen to their teaching style. This site is great but I think it hasn’t fully developed and it needs full participation from the students to help expand the amount of audio clips,” said Albert Leung, third-year MGT.

For professors, the website means that their classrooms will be full of students who actually want to be there, as opposed to students who chose that professor because of their GPA statistics.

“Students tell us they have been waiting for something like this, and they hope we keep it up because they love the idea,” Black said. The website took nearly two semesters to build. SitInLecture.com is rapidly growing with new clips being added constantly.

Currently, first and second-year students will get the most value out of the site because the majority of the site features required core classes.

Since these classes tend to be bigger than more advanced, major specific classes, these core classes tend to have multiple professors teaching them, which makes choosing a class and professor much more difficult. Future plans for the website include possible student involvement by allowing students to upload their own audio clips.

“I think it has the potential to be turned into a student body driven WIKI where members all record classes and manage the site to help it grow much faster,” Black said.

“A lot of people don’t realize the extent to which their professors influence their choices that will affect them [for] the rest of their lives. You can be really turned on or turned off to an entire subject simply because of the professor. One really inspiring professor can convince you to either major in or go to graduate school in a specific subject. At the same time, one really bad professor can push you to change majors,” Black said.