Two new websites could save Penn students time in their attempts to get into closed courses.
Since the release of Penn’s Application Programming Interface this fall, student developers have been able to access Penn InTouch course data, including information on whether a class is open and how much credit the course is worth.
PennCourseNotify.com, which launched a few weeks ago, alerts users of course openings via emails. PennCourseMonkey.com, which launched on Nov. 23, alerts its users through text messages.
Engineering sophomore Fabio Fleitas, who programmed PennCourseNotify.com, said the site has more than 230 users and has sent out 85 emails about open courses.
PennCourseMonkey.com was built by Wharton and Engineering junior Dhruv Maheshwari and Wharton and Engineering senior Sunny Shah. Penn Course Monkey has about 700 users and 40 texts have been sent out, Shah said.
The two teams have also not discussed their sites with each other yet.
Fleitas said his site’s main advantage is its use of email, which is free. Since email is free (while texting costs the website money), the site has the ability to grow as its user base expands as well.
“Google App engine” — the server for PennCourseNotify.com — “allows a lot of stuff to be done for free — I can send out a hundred emails [a day] for free,” Fleitas said. “I could also do a million read/write operations [per day] on my database without getting charged at all.”
“Today with all the smartphones, email is just as fast as text message, so [the difference] doesn’t matter,” he added. “But it does matter that sending an email is a lot cheaper than sending a text message.”
Maheshwari agrees that texting “will not be the most sustainable solution” for the company, but he hopes that his site will offset the extra costs through an external sponsorship. Maheshwari added that, practically “texting is better than emailing” because it is more direct and will alert users of openings more quickly.
Some users have experienced problems receiving notifications. However, both sites said that they haven’t received any negative feedback or complaints as of yet.
“We monitor every single course offered by Penn with the Registrar as our proxy,” Shah said. “In our initial testing when we invited a small group of users to test, we had 100 percent accuracy with Penn InTouch.”
Fleitas said one main concern he had about the concept of his site is over-popularity of certain courses, noting that 18 people have currently signed up for Organic Chemistry. He might introduce a quota on his site because he thinks that it wouldn’t make sense if more than 10 people are notified at the same time of one course opening.
Both teams think it would be ideal to incorporate this functionality into Penn InTouch itself to allow direct sign-ups for courses after students receive notifications, but neither has talked to University officials about this idea.
This article has been revised to indicate that Fleitas stated he could send a hundred emails a day for free on Google App engine, not per month.
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