ESC, etc.: Meet Your New CourseWorks, CULPA

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Fu Foundation Bureau Chief Sean Zimmermann attended tonight’s ESC meeting. Exciting changes to your Internet are afoot!

The ESC meeting this week was dominated by two website presentations. CUIT previewed the “Next Gen CourseWorks” named Sakai, while two sophomores previewed their new website ColumbiaClasses.com, which aims to be a replacement for CULPA and Columbia’s own course information pages. 

Bwog was particularly impressed with Sakai, the arrival of which has been in the works since May. The site looks easier to navigate than CourseWorks and fixes some of the more archaic parts of CourseWorks system, for example file management. Here are some of the key features:

  • Over 100 other schools use Sakai, including Yale, Hopkins, Stanford, and MIT.
  • Has large focus on collaboration (wikis, blogs, podcasts, calendars, document sharing)

  • Will integrate well with existing systems, and can be customized for Columbia.
  • Could be deployed as early as Fall ’09. There will be a time when some courses are on Sakai and others on CourseWorks, but CUIT said it would be “as seamless as possible.”
  • CUIT is currently trying to raise support throughout the university and is asking for student representatives to sit on an Advisory Committee to oversee the deployment of the new system.
  • Biggest Improvements:
  • Individuals get their own personalized area (called “My Workspace”) where students have their own calendar that has info from all classes, and can sync with Palm/iPhone/Blackberry/Computer.
  • New File Management System (can add links, text documents, etc), directly from the webpage. Can also create citation lists and search for articles using Google Scholar directly through Sakai.
  • Groups can request Sakai sites (like courses) so their members can collaborates.

ColumbiaClasses aims to create an officially sanctioned website that has all the information of the College Bulletin, but also allows student to rate and review professors.

Bwog liked the system; it had some very interesting features, for instance, it could recommend courses based on ones you have already taken and enjoyed. However, in order for the system to be sanctioned by the University, it must be moderated. Users must sign-in to the system to see or post information. Though ratings and signed reviews (where the reviewer leaves his username public) are un-moderated, anonymous reviews are subject to moderator approval, and can be rejected. Users can also anonymously add their grade, so the site can show an average grade for the course (assuming enough people post).

  • Required login makes it so only members of the community are the only ones that can view data, so the school doesn’t have to worry about posting official information being posted (subject to approval), some teachers’ official university evaluations will be available on their rating page).
  • Feedback network between students, professors, and administration.
  • Replace CULPA
  • Create more valid data set
  • Rating breakdown
  • Average grade feature
  • Augment University’s Current System
    • Class Recommendations
    • Browse for classes by subject, school, or department
  • Used book trading system (shows asking price from seller, plus price comparisons from Amazon)
    • Site does not take commission.

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    1. culpa fan

      I think the idea of an "officially sanctioned" evaluation system completely negates the very purpose of Culpa. Keep it as it is. I very much doubt that the proposed new system would equal it.

    2. CCSC  

      Way to drop the ball Bwog, this was presented last night at the CCSC meeting, the engineers got sloppy seconds.

    3. yeah but  

      ccsc LOL look who's talking

    4. Culpa fan #2  

      Yeah I think a school-run Culpa-clone would be a disaster. LEAVE AS IS.

    5. however  

      I'm quite happy at the prospect of a CourseWorks replacement. The current one functions like vintage 1990.

    6. lol  

      Gotta love ccsc-esc dick-wagging.

    7. CULPA  

      Does Columbia Courses have anything to do with the update to CULPA the CULPA team posted in late July? If not, that's a pretty rude move by the CC devs. Will the reviews from CULPA at least be transferred to CC (why lose them all)?

      Also, why do we get another thing with the acronym "CC?" We have enough of them already.

    8. Anonymous  

      They don't post any new reviews. Professors change so much that the information is not relevant. Good idea, poor execution.

    9. sloppy seconds,  

      my ass! Columbia Classes has been in alpha for weeks

    10. really...  

      it's just a matter of scheduling.
      CCSC's meetings happen on Sunday nights and ESC's on Monday nights...

    11. Yeah  

      CULPA still updates - you can see reviews. I think the problem is that people need to review more. I, for one, have never submitted a CULPA review.

      Also, in response to #8, why would CULPA reviews move to CC? Unless CC and CULPA are the same, which I doubt...

    12. Ryan Bubinski  

      As the founder of ColumbiaClasses, I feel I need to clarify a few points:

      -ColumbiaClasses is NOT administered by the University, nor is it "school-run." It is an independent project launched and moderated by two sophomores in the College.

      -ColumbiaClasses is a not-for-profit venture. We simply seek to satisfy a need for a more comprehensive course and instructor evaluation system.

      -ColumbiaClasses has been in alpha testing since Monday of last week (7 days does not constitute "weeks"), and will launch on November 15 to the entire undergraduate community.

      -CULPA and ColumbiaClasses are not currently collaborating in any way.

      -To reiterate, ColumbiaClasses is RUN by students FOR students. We aim to include user submitted evaluations as well as the official University evaluations that have been collected over the past years via CourseWorks as well as an expansive toolset that takes full advantage of this data set.

      For more information visit http://columbiaclasses.com/

      Any questions should be directed to contact@columbiaclasses.com

      Thank you,

      Ryan Bubinski,
      ColumbiaClasses Founder

    13. Maybe?  

      It's not the same people as CULPA - they graduated years ago I think.
      I dunno... if these new guys do it well I'll use it for the average grade thing.

    14. wait a sec

      how can this columbiaclasses.com website, which isn't affiliated with the university, use unis for login. how does that work?

    15. Interesting  

      I wonder if the idea for ColumbiaClasses came about as a result of CULPA's 'letter' about the subject this summer. The CC devs say they've been working on the project over the fall, which would imply that the CC devs had at least read the letter. Oh, I smell controversy ahead!

    16. How can  

      Columbia Classes use the course evaluations collected by columbia? Wouldn't that entail having a *special* relationship with the university?

    17. too late?  

      is it too late for Columbia Classes to change their name? having "CC" as the abbreviation will get really annoying, and no one wants to type out "Columbia Classes" every time. this is why CULPA was amazing.

    18. yay  

      now we can read about CC and other CC classes on CC.

    19. hmm  

      Mr. Bubinski, you assert that Culpa and CC are not currently working together. Well, why not? It seems silly to not share information and have them split between two website. This doubles the time students spend looking for a professor's reviews.

    20. Former CU Employee

      I nearly spat my reeses puffs on the monitor reading this. Those course evaluations are written in confidence and for inter(not even intra)departmental use. Has the university even begun to agree to this? I think you have a long, vertical road to travel before they even think about turning those things over.

    21. from site  

      They're in bed with spec and CUIT: The development team greatly appreciates the assistance Columbia Spectator and CUIT have provided in making the course and instructor information contained within the site available to the Columbia student body.

    22. the real evals  

      are guarded by the schools. cuit will not release them without the authorization of the schools. SEAS already publicly publishes numerical results (http://oracle.seas.columbia.edu/) and has been doing so since ~2001? The comments remain confidential to the professor, department, and dean's office.

      Unlikely that they will be able to get these comments.

      Also - notice what happens when you log in with WIND. They do not receive your UNI as a token. Instead, they receive an anonymous identifier thats purpose is solely to identify you as having a valid UNI (and possibly as being a student). THEN they ASK YOU AGAIN for your UNI. DO NOT GIVE YOUR REAL UNI THE SECOND TIME AND THEY CAN NEVER KNOW.

    23. proposal  

      Columbia students love launching web projects that work for a few years and then fall apart because there is no stewardship. CULPA is one of the few that's lasted, but barely.

      Campus Playbook is a great idea. So was WikiCU, Carsplit.com, etc.

      Columbia needs a grassroots student development team that passes these things on from one class to the next so that students aren't reinventing the wheel every 2 years. Dartmouth has such an organization the developed its own internal online facebook in the late 90s (LionLink launched in what, 2006?), its own email program (cubmail still sucks), runs online elections, and runs an internal exchange (is anyone old enough to remember dogears.net?).

      • ahaha  

        thats hilarious. Spec is one of the worst platforms from which to launch student web development. they have on of the shittiest newspaper websites available. their archives are 5 years old - tops, and many older articles are cut off partway through. And the search system blows.

        Compare to the Crimson, Daily Pennsylvanian, and Daily Princetonian websites. It's not even close.

        Put your own house in order first.

        • whuh?

          Spec's online archives go back to 2000, it looks like. (Probably when they first had a website.) Don't know about articles getting cut off.

          I think the Spec site is flawed, but the DP and Crimson? Really? They make my eyes bleed.

    24. Tom  

      Hi - Tom from Spec here. Will draft a more detailed response at some point regarding this, but just wanted to say for now that Spec is not "in bed" with columbiaclasses. The site grew out of an original Spectator initiative and the paper played a role in helping it get started, which I think is great, but Spec will not be moderating the site. The founders (who worked their asses off to build an excellent site, for free) are running the show. Spec is involved in the sense that we are interested in nurturing, in any humble way we can, web initiatives by students - currently an under-appreciated/developed talent base on our campus. This also helps Spectator wrestle with new technologies and try to harness the many potential features and functions Online.
      On that note, while we'd like to improve our Web site, we're already happy to be off the collegepublisher network for now - in the course of that transition to an independent site our archives did suffer a blow (pretty much any tangible problem with our current web site was created by the designers, and our main fault is in not having been able to fix it all yet). But, resources willing, we're definitely looking to restore order in our house too.
      For CC, I'm excited to see a new, really useful (and sleek) site come from two students' hard work and hopefully I can use it next semester to choose my classes.

    25. oooooh  

      syncs with blackberries??? exciting!

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