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Carnegie Mellon University graduate Sabih Bin Wasi and his cohorts launched an interactive app that helps students plan their course load.
Corinne Lestch is a staff reporter covering education for EdScoop and its affiliate public sector technology news websites, FedScoop and StateScoop...
A new college planning app has been built by entrepreneurs who know their clientele.
Sabih Bin Wasi, Rukhsar Neyaz and Jiyda Moussa, who all graduated in the last few years from Carnegie Mellon University, co-founded Stellic, an interactive academic planning and advising platform that helps students plan their courses for the semester and keeps them on track for graduation.
Courses are recommended to students that align with their interests after the team crunches data about which classes students have previously taken and what they need to take to fulfill certain requirements.
"We look at the data of what students have planned to take and provide that data to university administrators to plan or schedule their courses in advance," Wasi said in an interview with EdScoop.
So far, he has found two clients: his alma mater, in Pittsburgh, and Tufts University in Boston. But 11 other higher education institutions have shown interest, including Stanford University and Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, he says.
Wasi, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in computer science, and his team recently moved to Alchemist Accelerator in Palo Alto. They recently hired their first employee, scalability lead Musab Popatia.
"His role is to make the system modular and scale it to other universities," Wasi said.
Another module on the app helps university advisors keep track of students and ensure they are taking the correct prerequisites. The advisors get alerts and notifications based on red flags, like if a student drops a course that may prevent him or her from graduating on time.
"So now universities are not relying on guesses," said Wasi. "They know the class load, they know how many students are taking a course, and that helps them decide scheduling in advance with more data."
More importantly, Wasi said, they are changing the way students are interacting with their schools. "Instead of giving them some outdated tool or static database, what we are providing is the interactive planner where everything is drag-and-drop," he said.
It doesn't hurt that the interface is similar to that of Facebook and Netflix, he said.
"Students are used to modern interfaces," Wasi said. "They are more likely to use this modern tool than whatever universities are currently using."
Wasi said his team is currently in the implementation phase at Carnegie Mellon, where the entire campus will start using Stellic in the fall. The platform beat out five other vendors through a competitive bidding process last year, according to Wasi. Carnegie Mellon paid about $100,000 to roll out the platform the first year.
Students in Tufts' mechanical engineering department will also begin to use the tool, which will be rolled out in their computer system.
The project has taken Wasi, originally from Karachi, Pakistan, all over the country. He completed a 10-month program on the main campus in Pennsylvania, and then completed the rest of his studies at Carnegie Mellon's campus in Qatar, where he met his other two co-founders. They will be canvassing different colleges during a summer road trip.
Wasi said the app was built out of necessity after his experience with the existing academic planning system at Carnegie Mellon.
"We had paper, pens and a spreadsheet to do course planning, and that
was an extremely inefficient way of doing things," he said. "So that was
the reason why we decided to build this for ourselves. And once we built this, we
realized it’s not a problem with just Carnegie Mellon – students at other colleges
didn’t have planning tools either."
But, Wasi added, the project – and his academic career – was given a major boost from college planner extraordinaire Mark Stehlik, for whom the app is named. Stehlik, a board member of the startup, was the academic advisor for the co-founders throughout all four years of college.
"He helped us plan and pick the right classes, so we wanted to name it after him," Wasi said. "He's been doing it for two decades now, so he has experience. [The app] is a homage for what he was able to do for us."