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Making the grade: Using online ratings to your advantageHeather

Making the grade: Using online ratings to your advantage

At the end of each semester, colleges and universities survey students, asking for feedback on the course and instructor. Likewise, many K-12 schools conduct annual parent surveys to gauge satisfaction with the school and identify opportunities for improvement.

Traditionally, this data was used internally. Now the game is changing as online rating systems are bringing pre-school, elementary, junior high, high school, college and university ratings into the public sphere. In this e-newsletter, we’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks to help you use these online ratings sites to your advantage:v

Know thy ratings—First step: Know what is being said and do some homework. A quick online search for “school ratings” will lead you to a variety of sites. Take a look at what is being said about your school or course. Even if you believe the things listed are untrue, it’s important to make note of what is there, because it may be planted in the minds of prospective students or parents.

If you find an error, you can report it. Organizations like The Fraser Institute use information gleaned from reports that schools file with provincial education ministries when compiling its School Performance report cards. If you find a mistake, follow official policies to request a change. Sites like ProfessorPerformance.com collect ratings from students.  However, they have policies that allow users to red-flag and challenge false, misleading or libelous evaluations.

Review with your team—If your school holds an annual data retreat, consider whether your team might find it interesting to see reports from the top school ranking sites. To make the data more interesting, ask participants to pretend they are considering a move to the area and knew only what the school ratings sites told them.  What conclusions would they draw about the school? Provide Mini Pocket Buddy Notebooks and Piper Pens in one of your school colours so the team can jot down website addresses, ‘a-ha!’ findings and ideas. Use their ideas to identify areas where you may want to submit supplemental information to the site.

Contribute—Many online ratings systems allow parents, teachers, students or administrators to add comments, links to your website, photos, calendar items and curriculum information. In some cases, parents can volunteer to answer questions about the school via e-mail, giving prospective families the chance to make a personal connection. Get your entire school community involved in the reviewing process by giving families Carabiner Highlighters emblazoned with your logo, asking them to ‘highlight’ your school on online review sites.

One note: When adding reviews, honesty is key. While it might be tempting for faculty or staff to pose as a parent or student and submit online reviews, the potential downsides are great. Fake reviews threaten your credibility and can be very damaging when discovered. Annually share this reminder with your school or department.

Make it your own
Prospective families are likely to consider multiple sources when selecting a school. While ratings sites are important, it’s equally important that your own website includes academic performance data. Think of your site as the place you can delve more deeply into information available on public ratings sites by providing explanatory information not commonly found on public ratings sites—details about before- and after-school care, class activities, special learning opportunities/activities, school safety, etc.

You may also consider adding the ability for students and/or parents to add comments to your site, so they don’t go looking elsewhere for this type of information. If you do, consider asking for names or e-mail addresses, so you can respond to negative comments. Promote this section of your website by including the link on Economy Portfolios filled with back-to-school paperwork for K-12 families or Colour Edge Key-Light for college students.

Ratings and rankings are commonly used tools, especially in today’s online world. While you can’t control the outcome of every ranking, you may be able to contribute to the rating sites and help families see the full picture of what you have to offer!

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