How To Use Harvard's New Course Selection Tools

By Courtesy of Syllabus Explorer

Stores close, weather turns even worse, but that’s not the only way Harvard has changed while you were gone this winter. I’ve been reliably informed that there are two new official tools to help you decide what classes to take as we hurtle into shopping week! (I say “reliably informed” and not “told by Mike Burke” because apparently I deleted his email.) One is Syllabus Explorer, which looks like a refined version of the my.harvard Search function. The other is Curricle, which is still in beta mode and is also supposed that same thing? Since it’s possible that, like this writer, you missed these tools, Flyby has the deets on how they work and whether you should try them out.

Search Syllabi

The most valuable thing is Syllabus Explorer’s ability to search, well, syllabi of all the classes here running back a few years. If you’ve always wanted to study a specific topic, writer, or piece of work but struggled to find something related to it in the course catalog, this is a much easier way to go about it. Of course, the moment I had Syllabus Explorer pulled up I forgot everything I’ve ever wanted to study… so it’s only as effective as you are. And the more specific you are, the better. A search for “feminism” calls up the top 214 results, and though some of those aren’t available this semester that’s still a lot to go through.

Sort by Semester

It’s not immediately obvious that Syllabus Explorer also allows you to look at your search results, but you can click on ‘Term’ to sort as most recent first. There will still be quite a few pages to click through, if you have a vague or broad query, but it’s better than the default, which sorts by relevance.

Similar Classes?

Another cool function Syllabus Explorer has is that it can suggest similar classes to any one you look up. If you have a certain thread you want to return to in your noble academic quest, this seems like a great way to find more classes on the same subject. It’s unclear on what basis the website deems classes to be similar, but it looks believable enough.

Mike Burke, What is Curricle?

You might wonder why most of this article has touched on Syllabus Explorer and not Curricle. This is because the latter is...perplexing.

Gregory Nagy's 'Network' on Curricle
Gregory Nagy's 'Network' on Curricle By Courtesy of Curricle

It has some cool graphics, and it is still in beta, but it’s unclear how helpful it’ll be. A lot of it is certainly interesting data — like the instructor networks tab — but it’s not immediately useful in terms of shopping week. Watch that space, maybe?

Harvard seems to have finally heard our complaints about the archaic loading times of my.harvard, but the search for a replacement may not be as straightforward as it seems. Good luck out there this shopping week!

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