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Student-Built Apps Teach Colleges a Thing or Two


Vaibhav Verma created a computer program that helped students at Rutgers get into popular classes.

College students in the U.S. have been taking the initiative to develop their own apps.

Credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times

College students across the United States, frustrated with some of the software universities provide for course selection and other tasks, have been taking the initiative and developing their own apps, sometimes to great success.

However, this success has also brought some of these students into conflict with the schools, making them realize that navigating the administrative bureaucracy can be harder than navigating legacy data systems.

For example, the student developers of the Ninja Courses website at first found the staff at the University of California, Berkeley very helpful, even supporting the devlopers financially, but a break down in communication when one team member left resulted in a cease-and-desist letter.

Yale University also shut down a course selection site app developed by a team of brothers, before later reversing course and apologizing. Yale Dean Mary Miller says the heart of the problem is questions about who university data belongs to and concerns about what and how much access to give student developers.

Many student developers say schools could be more proactive in supporting them by developing application programming interfaces for course information data that student developers likely will want to access. Some universities are embracing student developers by employing them to develop apps for their schools.

From The New York Times
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