Up-to-date course data are now open to students to develop projects via a Application Programming Interface recently released by the University.
Through the API on pennapps.com/penn, students can get security credentials with PennKey logins and access any data information from Penn InTouch, such as whether a course is open or closed, course descriptions and how much credit the course is worth.
“The goal is to encourage other student developers to work with the API for their own projects,” said James Feuereisen, co-director of PennApps Labs.
PennApps Labs may potentially move Penn Course Review — a site showing class and professor ratings — onto the new API. This will mean more up-to-date information, a more “fluent” site and a better, quicker back end of the site.
“Historically, I know there have been students at PennApps who tried to use course data and they didn’t have an API to use,” said Feuereisen. With this API, he said, students can build projects that will create value for the community and “in a secure manner.”
PennApps Labs has been working closely with Information Systems and Computing, who owns Penn InTouch data, to make it happen. Last year, the Student Technology Advisory Board had formulated the Open Data Initiative, which asked the University to open up its data to developers and other interested parties. The initiative garnered the Undergraduate Assembly’s support.
“In the past, [ISC] had security and privacy concerns that developers would abuse the data,” said Geoffrey Vedernikoff, co-director of PennApps Labs. “Over the past few years, we’ve been able to diminish those concerns and they finally agreed to open up their data not to the public, but to any Penn students who have a PennKey.”
“We used to get a giant file of all the courses and reviews for each semester, which we put into our database,” he said. “With an API, we can grab information from where the information is stored. You don’t need to ask for files or to read them.”
Feuereisen said PennApps Labs will be actively promoting the API and especially hoped to see more developers use it for more projects related to Penn and contribute to the community.
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