Flyby Investigates: Curricle's New Beta Version

This aspect of Curricle allows you to explore courses by looking at keywords
This aspect of Curricle allows you to explore courses by looking at keywords By Chloe I. Yu

We live in turbulent times, and there is no better proof than my.harvard, which can be counted upon to crash at the most inconvenient moments. Last semester Flyby took a peek at Syllabus Explorer and Curricle, two course search (but not registration) sites. Now, Curricle has released a new beta version with upgraded features to help you shop. If you get bad lottery news, it isn’t too late to keep looking! Flyby sat down with members of the Curricle team to learn more about the project and its liberal artsy ethos — and tested out some of those funky new tools.

It’s Called Art

One of the things we noticed immediately and loved about Curricle last semester was the colorful graphics and sharp design. That fancy design is no accident — Curricle is run by metaLAB, which was in turn founded by Romance Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature Professor Jeffrey T. Schnapp, who is also an affiliate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Talk about interdisciplinary.

“The universe of courses, I think, is probably the most profound, distilled vision of what a university is and what it thinks is important in the world,” Schnapp said. “More than just the immediate practical value … there’s a bigger vision of how we can make information systems do a lot more than just deliver core functionality.”

Search by Learning Style

By far the most immediately useful thing on Curricle is the tool that lets you explore by class type — lecture, seminar, etc. If you prefer to filter out smaller classes because you hate participation (no judgment), there is a way! While my.harvard also has a course component search, you can’t search by seminar and then see what departments offer seminars, for instance, as you can on Curricle.

Exploration, Not Shopping?

While changing the way undergraduates shop classes might sound like a top-down abstract concept (a la the removal of shopping week entirely), Curricle does have input from students. Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program fellows have worked on the project almost every year since its founding, according to Schnapp. The team also welcomes feedback emails throughout the year.

MetaLAB Associate Director Matthew R. Battles says Curricle’s goal is to “integrate and learn from” students’ existing shopping habits and experiences, such as the Google Calendar-style plan tool and the Q Guide, which “some members of the faculty and administration would prefer to pretend don’t exist.” To that end, Curricle now links to Syllabus Explorer and the Q Guide. Project Manager Oliver Luo ’13, said that the new beta version also improves user experience, navigation, and tool explainers based on student feedback.

Not a Competition

The Curricle database is tied into the Registrar’s and not my.harvard’s — which is why, when my.harvard goes down, Curricle stays standing. Of course, you can’t enroll on Curricle, and the team members assure us that they don’t see Curricle as a my.harvard replacement, or competition. In fact, they work alongside the HUIT team behind my.harvard. But there are advantages to having alternatives. Whenever my.harvard does crash, as it is wont to do, the team says Curricle sees a huge jump in traffic.

As for my.harvard, “we’re not wishing that there’s outages,” Schnapp says. “Just to get that straight.”

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