Class project improves user-friendliness of grade distribution

By Bonnie Meibers, For The Miami Student

The grade distribution website allows users to see the average GPA in the class from the past 15 years. While many students use it to help schedule their courses,  this website may not be the best way to determine one’s fate for the upcoming semester.

The grade distribution has been available in PDF format for years, but now the grade distribution website makes it much easier for students to view the grades different professors give in a given class — all arranged side by side.

The website allows students and faculty to see trends in a certain course and know what expectations to walk into the classroom with. 

T. M. Rajkumar, an information systems and analytics professor, had two of his classes create the website as part of their curriculum. The initial prototype was finished in about 45 days during the spring semester last year and another class took over the project the following semester, finishing it in about two months in May of 2015.

There is a meter in the top right corner of the site. Classes with a “high” grade distribution have a higher, green bar and classes with a “low” grade distribution have a red bar. Classes that fall somewhere in between have a yellow bar.

This is something that Carol Zhang, the student project manager for the site last year, said does not necessarily denote how difficult or not a course is.

“[Green] just represents a better grade,” Zhang said. “Red indicates a grade you don’t want to get.”

Zhang also said she believes the website is helpful because it allows students to see what options they have and what expectations they should have for the class. She personally uses the site to see where her final grade fell among the grades of her classmates.

Many students, however, do not use it for that purpose. Those students that are aware of the website use it, among other tools, to determine which classes to take in upcoming semesters. 

“I don’t think you can use [the grade distribution website] to tell how good or bad a professor is,” first year Billy Rohlfs said. “It depends on the nature of the students they are teaching.”

Rohlfs uses the website to determine certain professors’ trends, but does not solely rely on the site to generate his schedule. Rohlfs also cross checks the information he gathers from the grade distribution website with websites like “ratemyprofessors.com.”

However, Tim Kuykendoll, senior assistant registrar for technology, does not advise students to rely on these tools when registering for classes.

“I don’t think this is great information for students to use to make their course decisions,” Kuykendoll said.

Because so many factors play into a final grade, Kuykendoll said he believes instructor evaluations or talking with peers who have taken the course in the past is a better way to determine which classes to schedule.

Rajkumar echoed Kuykendoll in saying that talking to friends who had taken the class in earlier semesters was another great way to get a feel for whether or not one wanted to enroll in the class.

“This is just another mechanism in the pool,” Rajkumar said.

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