Pitzer first-year looks to eliminate course scheduling confusion with self-made website

A computer open to the Claremont Courses website.
Hoang Chu PZ ’24 created the Claremont Courses website to help 5C students with scheduling classes. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Every semester, students stress over course selections: Which classes require PERMs? What about prerequisites? When is this course usually offered? But Hoang Chu PZ ’24 thinks he may have cracked the code. 

Chu created Claremont Courses to assist Claremont students in almost every aspect of scheduling classes. From class syllabi to how often a course is taught, Chu’s added features to this site that provide in-depth information to assist in a holistic assessment of class selection. 

The site also states prerequisites needed, notes whether the class requires PERMs and shows if it has course equivalents. Claremont Courses and the creation of these features were the culmination of Chu’s passion for coding and eagerness to solve a common problem. 

Chu took an early interest in mathematics and was eager to explore computer science in college. Through taking a computer science class at Claremont McKenna College, Chu learned more about web development and the programming language Python. 

At the same time, Chu became frustrated by the confusion brought by the class scheduling process — which he noticed his classmates experienced too. Using only the knowledge from his CMC computer science class, he set out to create a solution that would ease the minds of anxious students. At the start of the 2020 winter break, he began designing and planning the website. 

“It was a very long journey. The first thing I did was to plan and design, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Chu said. 

He spent winter break working with the data portion of the site, deciding what would go in the database and extracting and translating data. Next, he worked on designing the display by putting himself in the shoes of a student using the site. With this mentality in mind, Chu aimed to make the site as easy to use and navigate as possible. 

It took him another month to create the first prototype of Claremont Courses, plus another month and a half to finish the JavaScript for the site. 

His course provided him a solid foundational learning of Python, yet he found holes in his knowledge of other coding languages. Determined to make the site the best it could be, Chu taught himself JavaScript. This proved challenging and took a substantial amount of time — to the point where Chu was coding for 16 hours a day. 

Luckily, he wasn’t alone in his endeavors. He received assistance from Kye Shi HM ’22, who maintains the 5C scheduling tool Hyperschedule. Shi helped Chu with some of the more technical details of creating the site, such as how to fetch course data and from where to fetch it. 

From one course catalog tool trailblazer to another, Shi wanted to assist Chu to expand the possibilities of course scheduling at the 5Cs. 

“It seemed cool, and it covers a use-case that Hyperschedule doesn’t,” Shi said via email. “Portal is annoying, and I’m all about making life less annoying. Also, it was just something I could help with, since I knew how to do some things he didn’t, so why not?” 

When Chu finally published the site on March 8, the reception was largely positive. While Claremont Courses is fully functioning and Chu hopes it can be utilized for class planning next school year, the site is continually experiencing updates as he adds more features. Students interested in using the site for fall 2021 planning might consider that the fall 2021 course list will be posted on Claremont Courses by April 16.

“My only hope is that it can reach as wide as possible, and it can be passed over through generations.” —Hoang Chu PZ ’24

Communication and feedback are extremely important to Chu — he hopes to add features that are highly requested and sends frequent updates to the 5C Class of 2024 GroupMe, utilizing polls to determine which features to add. He had one experience that was particularly impactful.

“I received a response that one student with a seeing disability wants the color of the course code to be a little bit darker and suggested to me to follow an official color code” Chu said. “This was very eye-opening information for me because I didn’t know anything about the official color code. So I adapted to the change fairly quickly from the group chat.”

Chu envisioned a simple, efficient system in which Claremont Courses and Hyperschedule are connected. Since Claremont Courses provides more of the in-depth information about the classes whereas Hyperschedule shows class times and seat availability, the two sites complement each other to create one full class-planning machine. 

“I hope that we can somehow create a connection between the two sites. For example, if you like a course from Claremont Courses, you can add the course directly from Claremont Courses to Hyperschedule and get the instant class scheduling time. But currently, I am limited in technology, so it might take some time.”

Until that time comes, Chu recommended having Hyperschedule, the scheduling portal and Claremont Courses in tandem to effectively and quickly create a course schedule.

He hopes that the tool he created continues to be passed down by class years, even after he graduates. 

“My only hope is that it can reach as wide as possible, and it can be passed over through generations, which means that I plan to create the app so concise and easy to use that even after I graduate, future generations can also use [it],” Chu said. 

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