Yale students made a better version of their course catalogue. Then Yale shut it down.

A major challenge in registering for classes is working out schedule conflicts from overlapping classes, finding a solution that allows you to take the classes you need to take while sprinkling in courses you’d love to take or maximizing your sleep schedule. This is a complex problem with a lot of moving parts. Most universities offer, at best, some primitive calendaring solutions, even though the ability to optimize your schedule based on specified priorities is eminently solvable using software.

Two Yale students did their fellow students a huge solid by building a nice little system. It became quite popular. Then Yale shut them down.

As first reported by the Yale Daily News, representatives of the registrar’s office contacted Yu and Xu last week asking how they had obtained their data, with whose permission, and where it was hosted. Officials also expressed concerns that the site was making course evaluation information available to individuals not authorized to view the information. While the site required Yale credentials to log in, it did not have a way to sort between undergrad students and other members of the academic community. In later correspondence, the administration cited concerns about the prominence of evaluation information and unauthorized use of the words “Yale,” “Bluebook,” and the Yale logo.

At a meeting Friday, the brothers say they were told they needed to shut down the site due to these issues. “They seemed to be panicking a little bit about it,” Xu said in an interview. But the brothers countered with proposals aimed at addressing the university’s concerns and they rushed to implement changes over the weekend — including changing the name to CourseTable and adjusting how they displayed rating data. “We thought we could work out all of these issues,” says Xu, “up until Sunday night.”

Then, without further warning, Yale blocked the page from university networks — effectively cutting off students who intended to use their service to guide their shopping period.

Do the right thing here, Yale. Address this. These students should be lauded for their service work, not frozen out. This is potential egg on your face, easily avoided.

  • Matt

    I do understand why Yale has issues with the site, but this is a great opportunity to fix their own internal issues while partnering with and celebrating some talented students.

    They have elegantly solved a problem and made technology and a part of education easier to use. Embrace it, Yale!

  • Scott K

    Yale has a sure fire way to bring students on board and really listen to what they have to say, and more importantly, what they can do to help. What a slap-in-the-face way to reject the two students.

  • Larry Davis

    They should probably pay them for the software, enhance it, and make it the main method for the course catalog. Instead, they killed it out of what’s likely ignorance and fear of change.

  • Colin Mattson

    Good on the brothers for trying, anyway. As universities have been decommissioning their much-more-capable mainframes and moving to horrible “modern” products from the likes of BlackBoard, crappy registration and scheduling has become a common problem.

  • I’d just note that Yale is mis-spelled in the article … it should be spelled ‘yale’

  • Brendan Dery

    This happened at my alma mater, University of Alberta, years ago, right around the time I graduated in 2003.

    IIRC, the administration implemented an online system called Bear Tracks (our mascot is the Golden Bear), but I remember it not being very usable.

    An enterprising student set up a competing system that accessed the same data. They called it “Bear Scat” – “what Bear Tracks leaves behind”. http://www.bearscat.ca/

    The student left a note on the site saying that he was able to fold some of Bear Scat’s features into Bear Tracks in 2008, so I’m guessing the University brought him on-board to do some work.

  • Moeskido

    It was unauthorized, and probably scared a few old administrators into pushing the red button, but they should recognize a better solution when it comes along and bring these guys into the process.