A Netflix-Like Recommendation Process for College Courses

The popular video streaming and online video rental company widely known as Netflix allows users to watch movies for a flat rate and also suggests movies for users based on how previous viewers liked the movie.  In addition, it takes into consideration which movies the user has rated highly previously. Now, some colleges have taken to this sort of recommendation system to help students pick out their college courses. Last week, students at a Tennesse university were invited to visit the schools new online recommendation system which considers each student’s planned major, past academic performance, and data of how similar students did in that course to recommend courses to students, according to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

With an early test of the system finding that it could lead to higher grades for students and fewer dropouts for schools, the quality of course recommendation at colleges appears to be reliable. Human advisors don’t always get stellar reviews from students and the program is filled with vast hard drives of data with academic requirements and student performance. Many professors who assist students in picking courses may not be so helpful, as many of them don’t have much knowledge of courses outside of their discipline. If the system works well with advising students in what courses they should take, it could be expanded to serve other purposes as well, such as helping students select majors, activities, and campus resources.

With students sometimes not being able to schedule frequent appointments to check in with their advisors and get assistance with choosing courses and the like, the system seems like a great option because it is available at any time. But some worry that the system may take the place of advisors, and many argue that students actually already rely too heavily on computers and Internet to choose and register for classes anyway. For many years, students have used online forums such as Rate My Professors to selectively choose their courses. Rate My Professors is an online forum where students can anonymously rate their professors in a number of areas, including how strictly they grade. Many professors at the Tennessee school say they like that this system is based on courses and course work, rather than on professors and teaching styles.

Not everyone has been so trusting of computers and software choosing courses for students based on academic data with student performance. The University of Colorado at Boulder, which has also added online-course picking tools recently, has seen that old-fashioned advising is still pretty popular and important to students there. A recent study at the university concluded that students are seeking personal advising more than ever, and students oftentimes have personal connections with their advisors.

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