In order to help students better select their courses, a team of Cornell students launched a new website, CU Reviews, that provides comprehensive information about classes that goes beyond basic information about the professors who teach them.
Currently, many students turn to Rate My Professors to find reviews of classes “because of the lack of options,” said Divyansha Sehgal ’18, product manager of the website and a former science editor for The Sun.
Sehgal, along with lead developer Vinisha Mittal ’18 and product manager Brooke Docherty ’19, criticized Rate My Professors for being “cringey” with scales such as “hotness” in place.
“It does not help either the professors or the students who are trying to take the class,” Sehgal added.
In comparison with Rate My Professors’ emphasis on the instructors who teach the class, CU Reviews focuses on more comprehensive reviews of classes.
“Classes are a lot more than the person teaching them,” Docherty said.
“Even though the professors influence the classes a lot, the structure of the class is also important. This is something we found that other competitors don’t get at all,” Sehgal added.
Sehgal said that in order to address the proliferation of inappropriate personal comments about professors on Rate My Professors, the project team decided that uploaded comments have to be reviewed, which should eliminate spam comments and keep the website at the “highest level of accuracy.”
“The code of conduct on our website should be what you would be able to say to people themselves,” Sehgal said.
The engineering project team responsible for conducting this product, Cornell Design and Tech Initiative, spent almost one and a half years developing the website, including a whole semester researching and surveying the needs of the Cornell community. About 200 respondents of a survey favored the idea of a platform that helps them choose courses.
One of the biggest challenges that the team faced at the beginning was the lack of technical support in setting up the necessary framework for the platform, along with software development.
The team, which was a much smaller size back then, had no technical infrastructure to start with and “basically had to learn every aspect of creating a website before [they] could create it,” according to Mittal.
Another major obstacle the team encountered was the initial abstractness of the project.
“Everything from getting a product from an idea to an actual product was a challenge,” Sehgal said.
The CU Reviews team began its marketing effort with a successful pre-enrollment cycle this spring using its Facebook page.
“We had over 100 reviews and about 800 visitors just in the period of four days,” Docherty said.
In addition, they plan to contact professors personally in the future and promote the product to classes taught by willing professors.
According to the three team members who were interviewed, there will be a second update coming up next year, with more specific divisions of scales than the current general scales of “overall quality” and “difficulty.”