Connect with us

All Articles

ESC, etc.: Meet Your New CourseWorks, CULPA

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, 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.

    Write a comment

    Your email address will not be published.



  • culpa fan says:

    @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.

  • CCSC says:

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

    1. FYI... says:

      @FYI... Members of ESC worked with CUIT and CU Libraries last year to be educated on Sakai.

      So, CCSC instead got sloppy seconds?

  • yeah but says:

    @yeah but ccsc LOL look who’s talking

  • Culpa fan #2 says:

    @Culpa fan #2 Yeah I think a school-run Culpa-clone would be a disaster. LEAVE AS IS.

  • however says:

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

  • lol says:

    @lol Gotta love ccsc-esc dick-wagging.

  • CULPA says:

    @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.

  • Anonymous says:

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

    1. Nope says:

      @Nope I’ve seen reviews there as recently as August 2008. Culpa is still the God of all.

  • wow says:

    @wow Sakai was introduced way the fuck back in 2005.

  • sloppy seconds, says:

    @sloppy seconds, my ass! Columbia Classes has been in alpha for weeks

  • really... says:

    @really... it’s just a matter of scheduling.
    CCSC’s meetings happen on Sunday nights and ESC’s on Monday nights…

  • Yeah says:

    @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…

  • Ryan Bubinski says:

    @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

    Any questions should be directed to

    Thank you,

    Ryan Bubinski,
    ColumbiaClasses Founder

  • Maybe? says:

    @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.

  • wait a sec says:

    @wait a sec how can this website, which isn’t affiliated with the university, use unis for login. how does that work?

  • Interesting says:

    @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!

  • it's called says:

    @it's called an API

  • How can says:

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

  • too late? says:

    @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.

  • yay says:

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

  • hmm says:

    @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.

    1. anonymous says:

      @anonymous A merger!!!
      Call in the unemployed bankers quick!

  • Former CU Employee says:

    @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.

  • omfgharrypotter says:


    She’s heeeeerey

  • from site says:

    @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.

  • the real evals says:

    @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 ( 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.

    1. ... says:

      @... poppycock. the single sign-on system most certainly does pass on the uni of the authenticated user.

      there’s nothing anonymous about it.

  • proposal says:

    @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,, 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

    1. ahaha says:

      @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.

      1. whuh? says:

        @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.

  • Tom says:

    @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.

  • oooooh says:

    @oooooh syncs with blackberries??? exciting!

  • Have Your Say

    What should Bwog's new tagline be?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

    Recent Comments

    They did Barnard yesterday. But to be fair, this is a Columbia College publication as is Spectator. Most clubs (read more)
    Columbia Announces Reopening Plans For 2020-2021 Year
    July 9, 2020
    :) you're a shining star!!!!! (read more)
    Senior Wisdom: Rania Siddique
    July 8, 2020
    The other deans also sent emails, but guess y'all will just ignore those because y'all think CC is the only (read more)
    Columbia Announces Reopening Plans For 2020-2021 Year
    July 8, 2020
    did you ever get it? :( (read more)
    Fake It Till You Make It
    July 8, 2020

    Comment Policy

    The purpose of Bwog’s comment section is to facilitate honest and open discussion between members of the Columbia community. We encourage commenters to take advantage of—without abusing—the opportunity to engage in anonymous critical dialogue with other community members. A comment may be moderated if it contains:
    • A slur—defined as a pejorative derogatory phrase—based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or spiritual belief
    • Hate speech
    • Unauthorized use of a person’s identity
    • Personal information about an individual
    • Baseless personal attacks on specific individuals
    • Spam or self-promotion
    • Copyright infringement
    • Libel