A Big Data challenge for you

I’m not the next Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t know how to write code. But I do have an idea for something – maybe not the next Facebook, exactly, but something – that would make the lives of students on campus a lot better. I hope someone with the skill set and initiative to make this happen reads on, because you’ll be a (minor) hero to future University students. I’ll be long gone, because I’m a senior, but you could do a lot of good for future students.

Our group project on RateMyProfessor.com got me thinking about just how awful RateMyProfessor.com is. It’s clunky. It’s slow, especially when you need it most. It’s ugly. It’s marginally helpful, but it could be so much more.

The LSA Course Guide isn’t exactly awful, but it’s incredibly cumbersome. I don’t know why the University feels the need to hide as much information from students as possible, but it does. On the LSA Course Guide, you’ve got a brief course description. On Wolverine Access, you’ve got real-time information about class enrollment. On various webpages scattered throughout the Internet, you’ve got information on instructors, like CVs, papers written, and personal interests. On RateMyProfessor.com, you’ve got (a pretty noisy) set of evaluations. On MaizeAndBlueReview.com, a site that is utterly unusable and seems to have been designed to confound the end-user, you’ve got more robust evaluation and grading data (for a lucky handful of professors). Just about nowhere can you find past syllabi, which is one of the most important pieces of information you can have before enrolling in a class.

It’s a mess.

That’s where you come in, HONORS-352-coding-guru-to-be-named. For the sake of future University enrollees, all this information ought to be in the same place. In the presence of such a resource, the hours that I spend every semester trying to optimize my enrolled classes would be largely wasted. I wouldn’t have to triangulate information from ten different websites. It would just be…there.

The University really ought to do this itself. But it hasn’t. Which leaves a big hole for you to fill. Collate this data, present it on an easy-to-use website, and rule the world. (Well, maybe not, but you’ll have saved a lot of people a lot of time.)

Alright, thanks for reading my manifesto. In all honesty, this may seem like a minor problem, but it has been one of my chief frustrations at Michigan. Multiply all the hours I spend on registration each term by eight semesters, and you’re starting to talk about a real chunk of time. Time that could be spent on learning, not waiting for RateMyProfessor.com to load and hoping it doesn’t crash Firefox for the umpteenth time.

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3 Responses to A Big Data challenge for you

  1. aserafim says:

    I agree that the university should create a site that has the ability to see professor ratings (RateMyProfessors, MaizeAndBlueReview), and allow you to make a mockup schedule (Schedulizer). I spend a tons of time looking though multiple course guides (LSA, SI), finding a course based on the description, then going to RateMyProfessors (if the professor is listed). Then I would google the class to find a syllabus, and if I like the class, then I would go to Schedulizer and add it to my schedule to have a visual picture, since wolverine access won’t let you until after registering. If there is one hub for all this stuff, then it would make students life easier, and it won’t take away their time that they could be spending on homework or other things.

  2. dkoleanb says:

    This is a great idea, and I would love to see it happen, especially because we can’t even find our classes and register on the same site (if you’re in LSA) because you have to bounce back and forth on the course guide to wolverine access to actually register. In addition, there’s no way to browse by class on RMP, so students can get an idea of what a class is like and not just the professor. Plus, some classes have a professor TBA type message that appears when you click on them in the course guide (it happened to me more often than you would expect).

    Ideally, this website would also allow you to enter classes that you liked the most and would recommend future classes to take. A class recommender system would be great, especially for undecided students.

  3. cyberprofgus says:

    Let’s talk next semester about engaging with center for entrepeneurship folks on this. It’s technically simple but politically complicated.

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