April 9, 2004

Student Streamlines Course Selection With Dzarzar

Print More

Dan Zarzar ’04 was sick of the way he had to select courses every semester.

“There’s course descriptions and then there’s the course roster and you have to shuffle between those two different sources to get your class schedules,” said Zarzar. “It was really painful.”

So Zarzar, who has worked for Cornell Information Technologies and will graduate from the Engineering School this spring, decided to do something about the process. He hunkered down for three weekends and started inputting course description and scheduling information into his website. By the time he was done, Zarzar had created an easy-to-use scheduling device that is accessible to all students at www.dzarzar.net/cornell.

Once students sign up at the site, they can use it to search classes by department and number or by word contained in the class’s title and description. Students can also specify which college they want to search and what numerical level they want the class to be.

Unlike the traditional process of course selection, the courses listed on Zarzar’s site come with both a description and a scheduling time. This means that students can specify the lecture days they want to search when looking for classes. It also means students using the site have the option of searching for only classes that do not interfere with their current schedule.

Adam Goldsmith ’07, who heard about the site from a friend, has found it indispensable.

“It offered course descriptions, which you don’t get in the course book,” explains Goldsmith. “It is easy to see when stuff overlaps, which you wouldn’t normally see.”

“It sort of started like a fun project,” Zarzar said. “It evolved a bit more and a bit more and all these people started using the system. [My main goal was] to provide a tool for the students from a student’s perspective.”

The number of registrants on the website broke 1,000 on Wednesday night, and, according to Zarzar, “just keeps growing.” Because Zarzar is graduating in the spring, the future of the website is not totally clear, though its creator envisions a number of options.

The first is that Zarzar will continue to maintain it beyond this year by working in concert with current Cornell students to input course information and times. The second option is that Zarzar will find one or several people to take things over after he graduates.

The third option is the one Zarzar finds most appealing — Cornell adapts his technology and incorporates it into their website as a tool for students.

“My goal is for Cornell to actually adopt this or something like this in the future,” Zarzar said. “You could add all sorts of things.” Zarzar envisions a day when course meeting times and places, course descriptions and even professor and course feedback coalesce into one invaluable resource.

“It would really help you,” he adds.

Zarzar has not yet contacted any University officials, saying “I want to have a number to take [to Cornell]. I’m just waiting for the right time to take this to [the University].”

On the site, he encourages users to contact the University and tell them that they want Cornell to continue the site on an official level. You can count Goldsmith as one of the students who wants to see the site become an official resource for Cornellians.

“[Cornell should] implement the site because it offers everything the current system does, but it also gives you course descriptions and times and it also shows you whether or not a class will fit your schedule.”

Ultimately, Zarzar hopes this site will cement his legacy at Cornell. “There would be nothing more rewarding for me and beneficial for the community than [Cornell adopting] this,” he explained. “My main concern is the Cornell community … and I hope they develop their own system like this.”

Archived article by Billy McAleer
Sun Staff Writer