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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
When Harvard College students logged on to my.harvard earlier this week, some noticed a mysterious change: the disappearance of course ratings — known as Q Guide scores — from course listings.
Some undergraduates said they feel perplexed and frustrated about the missing scores as they sift through classes before the start of a virtual “early shopping week” on Monday. Several students added that the Q scores, which include average time commitments, qualitative comments, and instructor feedback, are their primary tools for selecting classes.
Harvard’s Office for Undergraduate Education completed its transition to a new vendor-managed version of the Q Guide in February, moving on from the “home-grown” system it developed for itself in 2004 and 2005. Though the new site still exists, its data is not displayed in the my.harvard course search tool as it was in previous semesters.
College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an email that, after hearing from faculty, Harvard decided to only display scores from within the past three years.
However, as of Friday night, students noticed that no courses — including those taught within the last three years — have Q scores attached to their listing on my.harvard.
Dane did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the universal absence of the scores in the my.harvard course catalog.
Sonya Kalara ’21 said they felt “enraged” that my.harvard’s course search results currently do not display any course ratings or a button that redirects students to the course’s individual Q Guide website as it has in the past.
“Everything else in the course search when you click on a specific course is the same. Everything else is in the same space, but there's no links to the course evaluation,” Kalara said. “For a while, I just thought I couldn't find it.”
“I don't take a course unless I've read almost all of the Q Guide responses — responses about what you would tell other students about this class, the time commitments, and how well people would rate the instructor,” they added.
Kalara also said that, while upperclassmen may understand how to navigate the various course catalog and evaluation websites, they worry the process is now more inaccessible for freshmen who are not yet familiar with the sites.
“It's only through being at the school for as long as we have that we know how to navigate these things, and we know where they're located,” Kalara said.
Still, some students have come up with creative solutions to the current absence of the scores.
Kendrick Foster ’22 said he also consults the qualitative feedback in Q Guide evaluations to assess whether or not courses would be a “good fit” for him. This semester, he is using a “workaround” to take advantage of previous course feedback when selecting classes.
“What I do now is go to the Syllabus Explorer page and find out whenever the last time the course was offered, and then I would have to go to the the Q Guide site itself and manually figure out the Q Guide results based on when was the last time the course is offered and then backtrack from there,” Foster said, referencing another Harvard website which posts course syllabi from previous semesters.
As my.harvard frustrates some students due to the missing Q scores, Joshua S. S. Archibald ’22, an inactive Crimson news editor, said he designed the course searching and scheduling platform Vericlass as a more student-friendly alternative.
“I've had plenty of painful experiences with my.harvard, as I'm sure many of us have,” he said.
His app “scrapes” course listings from my.harvard and their corresponding ratings from the Q Guide site, streamlining the circuitous process that Foster and Kalara described. His app also allows students to sort by both course ratings and average course hours — a function that my.harvard never featured.
So far, Archibald said, his app has seen more than 700 users.
“Insofar as [course evaluations] are actually visible on my app — whereas they're not readily accessible on my.harvard — I think that is definitely a selling point,” Archibald said. “We all like to see what other people thought of classes when we're trying to choose our own courses for the next term.”
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.
—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.
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