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The Impact of Online Reviews on Academic Performance: A Comprehensive Analysis

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1. Introduction to Online Reviews in Education

Surprisingly, this paper, to our knowledge, is the first to study the broad effect of online reviews for educators. A few studies have examined the implications of online reviews on teaching evaluations or grade expectations, but very little has been explored outside of the realm of physical classroom universities. There are many differences between online education and traditional education: capital investment, physical property, faculty, perception, customers, competition, and much else. Since the supply and demand determinants for both will differ, as will the academic expectations of courses, the characteristics that predict reviews will also necessarily differ. This is the focus of our paper.

Individuals invest in education often with the hope of achieving a good job. This is true at all levels of education, from low levels of attainment to high levels of attainment. The amount of money paid to hire individuals has historically been partially dependent on their level of education. From the firm’s point of view, they can save time sifting through applications by choosing those individuals with higher education. Most assuredly, these individuals have gained at least a basic level of knowledge. But firms can also find these superior individuals by reading online reviews from former students, which makes these reviews valuable. Teachers and their institutions also benefit from this valuable information as they can use feedback from prior classes to adjust future classes in an effort to improve student outcomes.

2. The Influence of Online Reviews on Student Decision Making

The survey reveals that academic reviews or ratings, published for example on the Rate My Professors website, can exert influence on the academic choices of students. In other words, students read comments and take the opinions of previous students into account when selecting teachers and subjects. Therefore, one should imagine that students may choose a subject that is less in line with their interests, but has a better grade, to use a “bank note” that can help to complete the credit load at the end of the program. In addition, when choosing the subjects, students value not only the subjects, but also the teacher, who, based on other students’ online opinions, likes classes, loves teaching, and is a good teacher. They value the teacher’s way of teaching, a factor associated with the way the teacher conducts classes. It can turn down a potential teacher’s recommendation with a lower rating or low approval.

While students often analyze the online reviews or ratings published by faculty members on sites such as Rate My Professors or Online Professor Ratings, the literature in this area is limited. Isbell et al’s survey (2017) conducted with 162 business students that attended a private university and concentrated on academic qualifications is a unique paper in the field. This study analyzed the following questions: What influence do reviews have on students in the pursuit of higher learning? Is the weight of reviews greater in classes required for a particular program? Are students making degree or program selections that may or may not align them with future career goals just to obtain a higher grade in that class? Which attributes are students willing to give up to take an alternative course with a higher grade? To do this, a survey was administered asking about current and future school requirements, how this information is obtained, and quality perception concerning actual or hypothetical classes.

3. The Validity and Reliability of Online Reviews in Academic Settings

Learning evaluation involves consultations with former students and colleagues, supervisor input, and possibly, external evaluators engaged in teaching and learning surveys. Interventions to support staff in their teaching roles are also addressed by TLE. The process of TLE focuses on ensuring that evaluations are conducted and feedback is used in professional practice. While online student ratings are not a focus of TLE, the Code of Ethical Practice for Tertiary Teaching and Learning provides guidelines that facilitate the use of student feedback to develop teaching effectiveness. The process of TLE could easily be incorporated into an OLE because its fundamental function is to encourage formal and informal moderation of teaching-learning performance, using data from a number of sources including students.

The validity and reliability of online reviews in academic settings are of great concern. An individual’s review about a course might be affected by various subjective factors. Reputation, popularity, interest, and the individual’s ability and level might influence participation in a course, and thus, influence the review. Generally, blanket student evaluations are now excluded from formal institutional quality assurance processes, and the results of just quantitative measures for the teaching-learning quality evaluation are criticized for not providing meaningful data with respect to specific aspects of the educational process. Subsequently, TLE continues to advocate that the most useful teaching feedback can be obtained through dialogue with students in a variety of formal and informal settings.

4. Strategies for Utilizing Online Reviews to Enhance Learning Outcomes

Based on the findings of this study, we present the strategies and recommendations for utilizing reviews in computer literacy courses as potential educational resources. Educators might use the strategies according to the learning objectives of their courses in the future. Academic libraries might provide free learning resources in the form of reviews. As stated in previous studies, top 10 list and star ratings are the most commonly used rankings. Generally, students refer to the ratings as a purchasing reference in the e-learning context. There is no doubt that operational skills are important, but better reviews offer more than simple results. The language of a review, describing the complete mental process of reaching a conclusion, is far more important than five stars.

Reviews are often used for enhancing consumer confidence and providing public feedback on products and services for purchasing decisions. After decades of development, reviews have become an effective and popular source of information in the consumer research domain, and especially in e-commerce. Many studies have investigated various issues related to reviews, such as from the perspective of timeliness, antecedents, and effects. Surprisingly, we found few studies focusing on how to use reviews as educational resources for enhancing academic performance in the context of universities. With the number of students who use smartphones to consult and contribute to reviews increasing, various university courses should help students utilize reviews more effectively.

5. Conclusion and Future Research Directions

While the current study advances our understanding of the relationship between online reviews and the quality of courses, the study is not without its limitations, opening new questions for future research. It is important to employ experimental methods to further understand the causal relationship between these online course-related reviews and course security. Nevertheless, realizing the influence of these reviews would help college administrators and instructors greatly in questioning the relevancy and quality of the courses and make decisions on where to locate resources, such as faculty support services. This paper builds on insights provided by some related literature. Further research considering other moderators, fewer moderator constructs, specific academic disciplines, or other sources of debiasing delivered courses could be valuable in explaining our observed differences.

Using a large-scale dataset on college students, we show that online course-related reviews posted by previous students can provide useful and reliable information on the quality of courses. Moreover, we show that instructors whose quality is rated more accurately in online course-related reviews perform better in terms of their teaching effectiveness, which is measured by the program-level learning outcomes of their students. This study makes several important contributions to the literature. First and foremost, our findings expand the subject areas to which the influential impact of signals in online reviews can be applied. Second, unlike existing work focusing on the quantity of feedback, we examine the extent to which online course-related reviews reflect the quality of instructors (or courses). We also focus on the price sensitivity of students on such signals. Finally, we utilize a unique dataset that contains student-level data as well as student-level learning outcomes.

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