Hawkins Helping To Ease Registration Frustration For UW Students

March 3, 2009

By Katie McVicker
The Daily

Freshmen and seniors alike are all too familiar with the process of registering for classes. Setting your alarm for 6 a.m., booting up MyUW and quickly entering SLN numbers, only to discover that a class desperately needed has already been filled.

Going to a large school like the UW certainly has its advantages, but at registration time, competing with thousands of students for a class can be exhausting.Senior Rylan Hawkins understands the frustration all too well. In order to help alleviate his peers' pain, Hawkins created a Web site called Visual Schedule Finder (VSF), at vsfinder.com, that aids students in finding available classes.

'I struggled with spending hours figuring out what schedules would work for me,' Hawkins said. 'I play soccer at the UW, so I had to work around practice as well. It just became a big problem having 20 tabs open in my browser, looking through a million different classes, writing down a list of possible schedules and making sure they didn't conflict with each other.'

The site is powered with UW's current time-schedule data, is free for all students and is updated daily.

The program allows students to search for schedules based on starting time, ending time, departments, credits or teachers. The Web site stores chosen classes and allows students to view their schedules visually to ensure they have no problems when it comes time to register.

VSF began as an engineering class group project last spring. Since then, Hawkins has taken over site management and has made it much more than a project, using his summer and holiday breaks to tweak the program.

'I have gotten phenomenal feedback from students,' Hawkins said. 'One of the coolest parts is that I get to put this in front of people and they can work out what should be done next or what problems there are. Really, I think this tool is saving students valuable time, likely upwards of a few hours every quarter.'

However, there are a few problems with the site. For example, VSF usually isn't able to schedule both a lab and a quiz section for some science classes, and there have been some mistakes in class meeting times and locations.

Senior Alan Fineberg said he has used VSF as a registration scratchpad.

'The site was fairly easy to use, but there's lots of little things you could improve,' Fineberg said. 'It's confusing that the class information isn't expanded to start off with and it's not in the visual schedule display until manually toggled.'

Freshman Elise Santa Maria also noticed a few bugs in the system, but said they haven't affected her experience with the site.

'When I first used the VSF, I found that there were a couple faults, the major one being that it did not show all the dates of each section of a Spanish class that I wanted to take,' she said. 'But after posting my concern on the Facebook group discussion board, the problem was quickly resolved. It's a really handy tool to use for making mock-up schedules for next quarter.'

Hawkins recently made a few improvements to the site, allowing it to be accessed through Internet Explorer and enabling users to rate classes based on ease and quality. He's hoping to make VSF an official UW registration tool.

'I'm scheduled to meet with the university to speak to them about integrating this into the current UW registration system and move it from a third-party site to something every student will know and love,' he said.

Xia Cam, one of the original planners of the engineering project, avidly supports Hawkins' goals.

'Even though I no longer collectively own this project, I absolutely love how things have turned out,' she said. 'And I can't wait to see what the current VSF team will do next.'

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