Website consolidates course median data

As students begin spring course selection, those curious about the level of difficulty of potential classes can check median grades using Median Town, a website that Matthew Marcus ’16 created over winter interim. Using data from the office of the registrar, the website displays trends in class medians through bar graphs.

During the first two days of winter term, the website received 800 unique visitors and 1,100 page visits. It now sees approximately three new visitors every day.

Median Town contains information about the median grade and the enrollment size for each class dating back to winter 2008, along with the course title and description.

Marcus said he created the application because he refers to median grades while picking classes and found the data on the registrar’s website difficult to approach.

“The information was there but hard to use,” he said.

Marcus said he wanted to work on a side project over the winter break and thought the tool would be helpful for students during course election. Developing the application took about 20 hours of work, consolidating the information and generating graphics, he said.

The application is designed to supplement course town, a popular platform for student-generated reviews of courses and professors run by the hacker club, and the inspiration for his new application’s name, Marcus said.

Hacker club co-chair Delos Chang ’14 said the group is currently working on revamping the course town website and is collaborating with Marcus, a member of the club, to integrate Median Town into its existing site.

“I think it’s a textbook case of someone solving a problem that students have,” Chang said. “He has shown incredible intuition for what people want.”

Though he has received positive feedback, some people have requested that professors’ names appear alongside their classes, Marcus said.

Kevin Moon ’15 said in popular classes taught by more than one professor, medians depend on the instructor.

Adding professors’ names is possible but would require looking through each department’s website, as there is no common database for the information, Marcus said.

Though students said class content and professor are more important than medians when considering classes, they often look at median grades when choosing classes that fill distribution requirements.

Chris Clark ’14 said the website was a useful reference.

“I wish it existed my entire time at Dartmouth,” he said. “This information was always available, but it was much harder to use on the registrar’s page.”

Jordana Composto ’16 said median grades help her gauge course difficulty in order to construct an academically balanced term. Median Town seems more up-to-date than the course town website, she said.

The hacker club hopes to have the new version of its site, including data from Median Town, up and running by the middle of spring term, Chang said. The hacker club currently has approximately 60 active members.

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