When University of Maryland student Jonathan Saewitz tried to use OurUMD.com, a popular website students use to look up grade data and reviews for courses, he found it outdated. He sent in a review of a teacher to the site, but it was never acknowledged, and the last post on the site’s homepage was from 2010.
So he created his own version.
It took Saewitz, a sophomore computer science major, one week to create PlanetTerp.com, which he refers to as a “better and more updated version of OurUMD.” The last review left on OurUMD is from December 2016, whereas the last review left on PlanetTerp is from March 24.
PlanetTerp currently includes more than 10,000 courses, almost 6,000 professors and more than 71,000 course grades.
The initial reviews on the website were taken from OurUMD.com. The professor and course information is taken from umd.io, which is an open source website for this university’s data.
Grade data is currently from the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment and obtained through a request under Maryland’s Public Information Act. Every semester Saewitz submits a PIA request to obtain the most recent grade data.
Saewitz has filed six requests so far, and received data for all but one — admissions information — which he deemed too costly. The first two hours of an agency’s search time for data are free, but beyond that, agencies can charge requesters, according to the act.
Since the website’s creation in November, it has gotten more than 80,000 views.
Sophomore computer science major Katherine Ciaravalli said she uses the website once a week.
“I really like how you can go on the website and just post a comment, where with OurUMD it has to get approved first,” Ciaravalli said. “But I wish there was a breakdown of students taking the courses. It could be an anonymous way to see that mostly freshmen or people with certain majors are taking the class.”
Currently, Koofers, another course and grade review website, offers a test bank and class notes. Rate My Professors, another competitor, allows participants to indicate whether they would take the course again. PlanetTerp does not currently offer any of these features.
However, the tools section of the website, which none of the other course and grade review websites have, Saewitz said, has options including 40 years of race and ethnicity data from this university and searchable menus of this university’s most difficult and most popular courses. There is also a discussion board students can contribute to.
“I don’t want it to only be known as professor review site,” Saewitz said. “I want it to be a community for students.”
Bridget McNamara, a sophomore hearing and speech sciences major, said her favorite aspect of the site is the teaching assistant reviews.
“You can search for a TA which is interesting and a new aspect,” she said. “I think this is a useful part that has been overlooked by other websites.”
Saewitz said he is always trying to add new features to the website, many of which come from user suggestions. One feature he added over spring break is the ability to search for courses by the general education requirement.
It currently costs Saewitz $5 per month for the site’s custom email address, $8 per year for the domain and $20 per month to host the website. He is not making any profits with the website as of now.
Saewitz said he plans on maintaining the website at least for the near future, and even possibly wants to expand it to other universities.
“I’m not sure if I would keep it up personally after I graduate, but I would definitely hand it to someone else if I don’t continue,” he said. “I don’t want this to be like OurUMD where in 10 years someone makes another site. I’m looking forward to growing it and adding to it in the future.”