Breaking New 'Student Ground'
Brandeis students collaborate to create academic website
It’s midnight. You’re about to go to sleep when a sudden panic strikes. In the back of your mind, you have the strangest nagging feeling that something is due tomorrow. You decide to log in to LATTE, but it isn’t loading correctly and you can’t find the page you’re looking for. More panic ensues. Sound familiar?
Brandon Miskin ’18, Josh Berg ’17, Patrick Flahive ’18 and Jesse Caron ’17 are hoping to help with the creation of their new app, Student Grounds.
It all started during Miskin’s freshman year, when he began to notice the inefficiencies and shortcomings of LATTE. He felt he could do a better job and decided then to create his own app that would allow for more student interaction and organization.
“I was trying to create a better platform that would first fix the academic problem of not knowing your syllabus and not knowing your academics, but then also expanding it to make it a fun and creative website where you could expand all of your interests as a student,” Miskin said in an interview with the Justice.
He spoke about it to Flahive, his freshman year roommate. “I’m not the most organized kid, so when he [Miskin] came up with a site to help organize academics and help with your syllabus, I thought it made a lot of sense,” Flahive told the Justice.
Flahive, Miskin, Berg and Caron are all members of Brandeis’ men’s soccer team. “We got together and made all of our ideas stronger.” Berg said about the collaboration.
Here’s how it works: the app combines aspects of LATTE, like the ability to access your syllabus, with the social aspects of other media sites. A Brandeis email address is required to create a login, and from there students can select their classes each semester. They can then download their syllabus, and, by highlighting assignments and important dates, automatically create a calendar.
“You can always keep track of what assignments you have for each class, and you can personally input and type in different activities, like if you have a soccer practice. So it’s pretty much creating a calendar, but it’s a much more simple way of creating your master schedule for all of your classes and all of your activities at school,” Miskin said.
The app also has a marketplace feature, where students can advertise different items they’re selling. By letting students sell their belongings by simply taking a picture and setting a price, Student Grounds is helping to eliminate the middleman.
“At the beginning of the semester people are always looking to buy and sell textbooks or other things college students need … and people can upload different textbooks or whatever they need for class and then obviously get them there. Instead of buying [something] from Amazon and then waiting a couple of days, you can just walk over to North Quad and buy the book. There’s no fees, no shipping; it’s an easy process,” Flahive said.
To create the app, Miskin enlisted the help of his brother Ricky, who graduated from Suffolk University in 2014 with a degree in finance. Ricky was a first-time programmer, but he was able to successfully create a design that matched Miskin’s vision.
“I try to think too big sometimes.” Miskin explained, “I personally want to get things going and get things done immediately… and this is why Pat [Flahive]and Josh [Berg] were a big help; narrowing down the product and the scope of the platform.”
“Obviously, we’re a very small team right now so we have minimal resources,” Berg elaborated. “We are really trying to push this out so it is available for the second semester.”
Though the team has spoken to the University about their app, they want to be clear that the app is not affiliated with Brandeis. Other universities offer similar apps, but they are usually purchased through a third party like Blackboard or Moodle.
“We do really want to stay completely separate and unaffiliated with [Brandeis] because that will make a better environment for student interaction, whereas other sites have the faculty interaction,” Berg said.
For now, the app is only available to Brandeis students, but Miskin has big plans for the future. “I personally think this could be a real success, especially at Brandeis, and in the future we hope to expand to other liberal arts schools and research bigger schools to cater to their needs. The whole idea is to cater to the school’s specific needs and the students’ wants,” Miskin said. “It’s academic, it’s extracurricular [and] it’s social.”
“Obviously, it’s going to be tough to infiltrate this market right away, and we understand that, so we’re going to work on different types of promotions and other ways to really get users on the site,” Berg said. “We think once they get on the site they’ll understand how user-friendly and modern it is, and we think the site will essentially sell itself once they get on.”
Student Grounds was released on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, two days before the start of Brandeis’ spring semester. Though the website is mobile friendly, it’s primarily meant to be accessed through computer use. It’s available at studentgrounds.org.