This article has been updated to reflect new information.
When scheduling classes for the semester, most University of Maryland, Baltimore County students open three tabs: UMBC’s course catalog, UMBC’s schedule builder and RateMyProfessors.com. However, many of the university’s professors have little to no reviews on RateMyProfessors.com, making it hard for students to decide whether to take a course. Gritview.io looks to change that.
Gritview.io is a new platform for students, faculty and staff at UMBC to access grade distributions, course evaluations and course and professor reviews. It is almost like a UMBC-specific RateMyProfessors.com.
Spearheaded and developed by senior computer science major Nathenael Dereb, Gritview.io provides a clean, built from the ground up interface for the UMBC community to access the university’s course data and to share honest reviews.
“We want this to be the first place that students and faculty at UMBC go to learn about a course,” said Dereb.
Course data goes back six semesters, to Fall 2017. All course data is publicly available, meaning that if requested, UMBC provides the data on grade distributions, course registration, etc. in Excel format. Independently searching and integrating all of the information is the arduous task that the “back end” of Gritview.io tackles.
This API, or the technical, data-retrieving aspect of any web application, was developed as part of a group project in a software engineering class that Dereb took this fall. Once he suggested that they integrate course data and grade evaluations into one platform, the group immediately got to work. Working with the team, Dereb explained, was an important source of support and feedback.
Once classes ended and the project (the “back end” of Gritview.io) was submitted, Dereb wanted to further develop Gritview.io. He would have to continue without his group, however. Creating a fully fleshed out, user-friendly site challenged Dereb out of his computer science comfort zone and into the world of the “front end” — the user experience.
“Designing the front end takes patience, [it] takes understanding how users interact with applications,” he said. “I haven’t really taken any classes [at UMBC] that show us how to build user interfaces. Gritview.io is one of my first web applications. There’s a lot I had to learn.”
Since Dereb is a senior, he has put a lot of thought into the future of Gritview.io, including keeping the data updated. Currently, Dereb has to manually file a request for each semester’s data, and a Division of Information Technology engineer told him there is no public API — there is no automatic system connected between UMBC databases and Gritview.io. Dereb does have one underclassmen who might be able to carry the torch, however.
“Rees Draminski has been really, really helpful … he had some valuable insights and design suggestions that have really impacted Gritview.io and the user interface,” said Dereb. “I have been working with him closely on what happens after I leave UMBC.”
Draminiski is a junior computer science and philosophy double major, and is a Student Government Association Senator.
In the meantime, however, Gritview.io is up and running. Anyone who wants to leave a review must first sign in through in-house authentication, a verification system to ensure honesty. Even without signing in, course data (including grading distributions and professor reviews) is available for every class at UMBC since 2017. Dereb explained that both faculty and staff can benefit from Gritview.io’s fresh, uncluttered interface, even if a more familiar software already exists.
“Everyone knows about Rate My Professor. But we want this platform to be for the UMBC community, so we want that transition to happen from Rate My Professor,” he said. “When we are used to something, it is kind of hard to change. One of the ways that we achieve that is by building this clean website.”
Dereb is thankful for all of the support he has received when building Gritview.io, including his “back end” team and the Institutional Research, Analysis & Decision Support, UMBC and DoIT. He was also inspired by the creators of PlanetTerp, a similar course review system at the University of Maryland.