Course scheduling websites vie for University students’ attention…and money

Coursicle, an online registration tool, gains popularity on campus.

Course+scheduling+websites+vie+for+University+students%E2%80%99+attention...and+money

By Joseph Longo, Assistant News Editor

For Joe Puccio, the University of Illinois does not exist without Memphis, Tennessee.

In 2012, Puccio and his partner Tara Aida participated in the Memphis-based Start Co. tech accelerator, which provided opportunities to improve their start-up company. While representing their course-registration tool, Coursicle, office small-talk led to major business connections.

Sitting next to Puccio and Aida were University students, Ashley Moy and Justin Brooks.

“When I first heard of their application, I thought ‘Well, the University of Illinois already uses Scheedule.” Moy said. “Then, they showed me all of the capability of their software. It was incredible, and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, our school needs to have it.’”

Moy and Brooks went on to help Coursicle expand to the University.

Coursicle is one of many course registration tools targeting the Champaign-Urbana market.  Scheedule and Is My Class Open, also known as IMCO, were both founded by former University students.

Coursicle assists in course scheduling and notifies students when a class is available. Aida, a recent Harvard graduate, and Puccio initially launched the application at his alma mater the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Scheedule’s unknown Golden Age

Scheedule, an online course and social calendar planner, originated as a group project for the Special Interest Group for Software Engineering, SIGSoft. SIGSoft is part of the Association for Computing Machinery society.

2008 University graduate Suraj Samaranayake and a group of students launched Scheedule in 2006. After the website continued to grow, Samaranayake left his job at Microsoft. In 2011, he and two other alumni devoted their efforts full time while based out of Seattle.

However, in 2012, the three founders donated the tool back to SIGSoft.

“20,000 kids were still using it or something, but we were done working on it,” Samaranayake said.

Samaranayake was surprised to learn that Scheedule still operates. He noted that the recipients of the donation likely graduated, so no one is knowingly running the tool.

However the manual process of loading data each semester requires someone to be working on it, Samaranayake said.

“I didn’t even know it’s still a thing–people are even aware of it,” Samaranayake said. “It actually worked?”

IMCO also notifies students when a course is open. However, students must pay per course. The subscription costs $0.99 on Venmo or $1.29 on PayPal.

A Fee-Free Service

Puccio intentionally designed Coursicle as a free tool. An undergraduate student at the time of Coursicle’s launch, he understood many of his peers wouldn’t pay for the services.

“Even though we think it’s a huge benefit, we don’t think there should be any sort of paywall stopping people from using any of the services,” Puccio said.

Instead, they recently launched a textbook comparison feature. Coursicle receives a referral percentage of all Amazon sales purchased through their website.

Only UNC students currently have access to the trial-run. However, Puccio expects to expand the feature to other schools.

“Because we knew that, for one, we could add the textbook feature and that could help potential students save money because sometimes the student bookstores are expensive,” Puccio said. “And at the same time, we could make money while not having to charge the students up front.”

Both IMCO and SIGSoft did not immediately return requests for comment.

Extending beyond UNC

At just over 200 colleges, 20,000 students are registered on Coursicle services. UNC students account for the majority of users, Puccio said. In total, 5,000 students use text-message notifications with a 50 percent increase by non-UNC students a week.

In November 2015, Puccio and Aida initiated this major expansion of Coursicle.

Coursicle initially launched at Appalachian State, Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. Testing user experiences at a variety of public and private four-year schools, Puccio saw success at Notre Dame and Appalachian State.

With national course registration tool MyEdu.com recently announcing they will shut down Sept. 30, Puccio expects to be the lead player in the market.

“We essentially are going to be the largest company doing what we’re doing, helping students plan their class schedule,” Puccio said. “We decided we needed to really expand to as many schools as possible to help fill that gap that MyEdu is going to leave behind in September.”

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