With 400-plus student organizations to choose from, Duke has more co-curriculars than you could ever hope to take advantage of in one college career. Navigating the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. So how do you go about finding your niche on campus?
Now there’s a Web app for that: the Duke CoCurricular Eadvisor. With just a few clicks it comes up with a personalized ranked list of student clubs and programs based on your interests and past participation compared to others.
“We want it to be like the activity fair, but online,” said Duke computer science major Dezmanique Martin, who was part of a team of Duke undergrads in the Data+ summer research program who developed the “recommendation engine.”
“The goal is to make a web app that recommends activities like Netflix recommends movies,” said team member Alec Ashforth.
The project is still in the testing stage, but you can try it out for yourself, or add your student organization to the database, at https://eadvisorduke.shinyapps.io/login/
A “co-curricular” can be just about any learning experience that takes place outside of class and doesn’t count for credit, be it a student magazine, Science Olympiad or community service. Research shows that students who get involved on campus are more likely to graduate and thrive in the workplace post-graduation.
For the pilot version, the team compiled a list of more than 150 student programs related to technology. Each program was tagged with certain attributes.
Students start by entering a Net ID, major, and expected graduation date. Then they enter all the programs they have participated in at Duke so far, submit their profile, and hit “recommend.”
The e-advisor algorithm generates a ranked list of activities recommended just for the user.
The e-advisor might recognize that a student who did DataFest and HackDuke in their first two years likes computer science, research, technology and competitions. Based on that, the Duke Robotics Club might be highly recommended, while the Refugee Health Initiative would be ranked lower.
A new student can just indicate general interests by selecting a set of keywords from a drop-down menu. Whether it’s literature and humanities, creativity, competition, or research opportunities, the student and her advisor won’t have to puzzle over the options — the e-advisor does it for them.
The tool comes up with its recommendations using a combination of approaches. One, called content-based filtering, finds activities you might like based on what you’ve done in the past. The other, collaborative filtering, looks for other students with similar histories and tastes, and recommends activities they tried.
This could be a useful tool for advisors, too, noted Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Edward Balleisen, while learning about the EAdvisor team at this year’s Data+ Poster Session.
“With sole reliance on the app, there could be a danger of some students sticking with well-trodden paths, at the expense of going outside their comfort zone or trying new things,” Balleisen said.
But thinking through app recommendations along with a knowledgeable advisor “might lead to more focused discussions, greater awareness about options, and better decision-making,” he said.
Led by statistics Ph.D. candidate Lindsay Berry, so far the team has collected data from more than 80 students. Moving forward they’d like to add more co-curriculars to the database, and incorporate more features, such as an upvote/downvote system.
“It will be important for the app to include inputs about whether students had positive, neutral, or negative experiences with extra-curricular activities,” Balleisen added.
The system also doesn’t take into account a student’s level of engagement. “If you put Duke machine learning, we don’t know if you’re president of the club, or just a member who goes to events once a year,” said team member Vincent Liu, a rising sophomore majoring in computer science and statistics.
Ultimately, the hope is to “make it a viable product so we can give it to freshmen who don’t really want to know what they want to do, or even sophomores or juniors who are looking for new things,” said Brooke Keene, rising junior majoring in computer science and electrical and computer engineering.
Data+ is sponsored by Bass Connections, the Information Initiative at Duke, the Social Science Research Institute, the departments of Mathematics and Statistical Science and MEDx. This project team was also supported by the Duke Office of Information Technology.
Other Duke sponsors include DTECH, Duke Health, Sanford School of Public Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Development and Alumni Affairs, Energy Initiative, Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke Forge, Duke Clinical Research, Office for Information Technology and the Office of the Provost, as well as the departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics and Biology.
Government funding comes from the National Science Foundation.
Outside funding comes from Lenovo, Power for All and SAS.
Community partnerships, data and interesting problems come from the Durham Police and Sheriff’s Department, Glenn Elementary PTA, and the City of Durham.