Crafting a college class schedule is no easy task. It’s a delicate balance of finding the right classes at the right time with the best professors. Inevitably, poor souls (mostly freshmen) will have no choice but to take 8 a.m. classes Monday to Friday with instructors they never wanted because all the best classes are already full.
However, two ingenious college students from different institutions have figured out how to beat the minefield of class-shopping time, the New York Times reports.
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Vaibhav Verma, a Rutgers University student in New Jersey, was frustrated about not getting the classes he wanted. So he built an online app, called the Rutgers Schedule Sniper, that surveys the university’s registration system and notifies users whenever someone drops out of a class. After developing it, 8,000 students used it the following semester, according to the Times.
And Zach Hall of Furman University in Greenville, S.C., created that allows students to search course offerings based on teacher, time, date and general education requirement. Users are also alerted when the class they want has an opening.
While students crave these types of digital tools, universities can be less than enthusiastic about them, in part due to laws protecting students’ privacy. Which is exactly what Brown University student Jonah Kagan discovered when he created an app that enabled users to submit their three favorite classes, which, in turn, helped course shoppers find interesting electives. Because he couldn’t access student data and enrollment figures, the project never took off.
“Students are always more entrepreneurial and understand needs better than bureaucracies can,”  Harry R. Lewis, the director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s computer science department, tells the Times, “since bureaucracies tend to have messages they want to spin, and priorities they have to set, and students just want stuff that is useful. I know this well, since students were talking to me about moving the Harvard face books online seven years before [Mark] Zuckerberg just went and did it without asking permission.”
To help mediate the disconnect between students and university administration, student developers from across the country held a Campus Data Summit last summer. From the gathering, they published a Campus Data Guidebook that includes advice on making friends with faculty and asking for forgiveness, not permission.
Some lucky app developers, like Alex Sydell and William Li from University of California, Berkeley, attend schools that see the value in their creations. Sydell and Li created Ninja Courses, a course comparison website,  and were paid by Berkeley for their innovation.
With STEM being such a hot button topic in education these days, we can only imagine that it’s only a matter of time before all universities welcome this type of student innovation with open arms.
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