Although course registration is often a test of how fast you can click the “Go to Enroll” page, the preparation leading up to that fateful click can be hours of research to figure out which classes would best fulfill general and major requirements.
Three Duke students decided enough was enough in Fall 2018 and created a new way to plan a course schedule without hours of searching and asking friends for recommendations. The three seniors—Hayden Hall, Dilan Trivedi and Max Labaton—finished a website in April called ClassRanked, which categorizes courses based off of difficulty, quality and course codes.
“We see this as an equalizer,” Labaton said. “If you’re in certain groups or organizations, you can get syllabi and access the classes that you don’t if you’re not in such groups.”
Since launching at Duke in the spring, ClassRanked has expanded to the University of California at Berkeley and Emory University. While the website categorizes courses by areas of knowledge and modes of inquiry for Duke, it organizes classes by their respective academic requirements for the other universities.
Building a website is an arduous task, so each of the three students used their different academic background to specialize in one part of the project.
A computer science and math double major, Hall said that he worked for months coding the site and even worked on it while tenting in Krzyzewskiville. While public policy major Labaton worked on strategy and press, Trivedi, an economics major, managed the company’s finances.
When Hall completed the website around March, the three began asking their friends to write reviews to populate the user-generated content that makes up ClassRanked.
“The biggest challenge is the rankings,” Hall said. “We need credibility.”
Hall noted that the peak seasons for ClassRanked usage were around Fall 2019 and Spring 2019 registration, with a spike over the summer when incoming first-year students registered for their fall classes. Usage also increased at the end of the semester when people rate their past semester’s classes.
Among the current three campuses on ClassRanked, the website has tens of thousands of users accounting for hundreds of thousands of page views. Through Google Analytics, the seniors discovered that first-years and sophomores compose the majority of users on the site.
This past registration season, the three students released a new feature of uploading syllabi to enable students to view grading breakdown and required textbooks for potential classes. Sophomore Livia Seibert, an electrical computer engineering major, said that ClassRanked is a “useful as a starting point” for finding her required humanities classes.
“As a non-humanities major, it is often difficult to know which of these classes will be manageable to take with a full engineering course load. For that reason, ClassRanked is a great tool because it allows students to search by area of knowledge and difficulty level simultaneously,” Seibert added.
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Additionally, some of the most popular Duke searches are humanities students looking to fulfill their quantitative studies (QS) and natural sciences (NS) general requirements, Hall added.
“Supposedly there are some classes that are heavily populated by students because they saw the ranking on the site,” Hall said. “To hear from professors that their class is getting filled up is actually, I think, a really positive thing.”
Hall explained that expanding to new universities was less of a technical coding challenge than it was a challenge of having students review their classes. Although the Duke page was initially populated with friend’s reviews, ClassRanked used student ambassadors and partnerships with student groups to gain credibility when launching at other universities.
ClassRanked plans to expand to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Pennsylvania in the next few months. The three founders will be graduating this spring, but they plan to continue growing ClassRanked by adding more schools and features.
“We are going to continue to work on the site and continue to expand as much as we can,” Hall said.
Editor’s Note: Trivedi is a Chronicle associate sports editor, and Labaton is one of the opinion managing editors.