Mosenkis ’13 creates a website to organize students’ courses
What if there was a way to sift through next semester's course offerings, highlight courses of interest, view your schedule as it's created and even receive recommendations for courses you may not have thought to take? Through an independent study with Prof. Tim Hickey (COSI), Computer Science major Eitan Mosenkis '13 has taken it upon himself to implement a website of exactly this kind at Brandeis.
Course selection is a process that affects every student at the University, and the current platform has its fair share of deficiencies. Under the present system, students choose classes from the registrar website, click on a separate link to see a course description, keep track of courses that may conflict, register for classes on sage, and then write down their final schedule for the semester.
The problem is simple: The website that students currently use is incredibly outdated. "It's basically an inactive webpage, ... not so different from a piece of paper," said Mosenkis in an interview with the Justice.
"What we have now is basically a replication of a printed bulletin online. All you can really do is read through and search," said Mosenkis. He pointed to an unnecessarily large number of steps and components that can be consolidated into something much more streamlined.
Schdl.net, Mosenkis' brainchild, is a significant improvement over the current webpage. Included among its many features is the ability to see a listing of all Brandeis courses, their descriptions, which semesters they were taught previously and which semester they will be taught. Additionally, the site allows students to create a username and build their own schedules-marking each class they encounter as "interested," "decided to take," "ruled out" or "enrolled." Once a student has finished building his or her schedule, it can be easily exported to a Google calendar, iCal or Facebook. The completed schedule can also allow students to easily view which courses they must register for in sage. Another unique feature uses an algorithm to recommend courses that students may enjoy.
Mosenkis and Hickey plan to meet with the University registrar in the coming weeks to explore the feasibility of expanding the website and creating an official partnership with the University to improve the registration process.
The idea to launch the website came from Mosenkis' own negative encounter with choosing courses. "I wouldn't remember which ones I had rejected. ... There was no reasonable way to keep track of it," said Mosenkis. Instead of suffering through a system that frustrated him, he figured he would be able to apply his skills as a computer programmer to creating something that would benefit not only himself but also students all over campus. "I wanted to help people and save people time ... something nags me about having a system stuck in the paper age," says Mosenkis.
While Mosenkis has had guidance from Hickey and a small amount of funding from the Computer Science Department, he modestly admits that "I pretty much did it all by myself," in a period of three months.
The website is currently fully functional. In fact, it was recently moved to a faster server in order to accommodate increased traffic. However, most students still do not know about the helpful tool. Because it was only recently completed, and he has had to balance a heavy course load this semester, Mosenkis has not had much time to promote the site. He plans to advertise in the Student Union announcements. To date, 45 students have created accounts on the website.
Mosenkis hopes that if the website is eventually well-received at Brandeis, it will expand to serve other universities that have yet to implement more modernized course selection systems. The website has the capability of uploading the course catalog from any university-the software is not limited to Brandeis. "I want to see it go places," said Mosenkis.
Even before enrolling at Brandeis, Mosenkis excelled as a computer scientist. He began programming at only 10 years old because he was jealous that his father was teaching his older sister how to program. According to Mosenkis, even though he took a few programming classes in high school and is majoring in Computer Science, his skills are mostly self-taught.
Mosenkis' future plans include graduation this summer, after completing a Justice Brandeis Semester in Computer Science. Next year he looks forward to starting a career with Google as a software engineer. While he will not be able to reap the benefits of his own website, his hope is that his creation will live on and provide much-needed help to students for years to come.
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