A side project that I love working on is the UGA Key, the the University of Georgia Online Course Review Book. UGA Key is an online grade database, containing the distribution for most courses’ grades over the past ten years.

Over three years ago, University of Georgia administrators decided that The Key (a long provided service to students) would no longer contain professor names, limiting its usefulness for UGA students.  Two friends and I resurrected The Key on a temporary website, maintaining the files that UGA previously published (one had been smart/enterprising enough to save all the previous data tables to a hard drive).  And then nearly two years ago, we opened a new website, UGAKey.com, to host a new version of The Key.  You can see the history of The Key here.

And today, we launched the second iteration of the UGA Key.

This second iteration, which I am calling UGA Key 2.0, was sorely needed.  The previous (first) version of UGA Key depended on a whole lot of javascript run inside the browser to function.  This provided some great functionality, but it took a long time to load and didn’t work on older or slower systems.  Another major problem was that the Key data was hosted on a different server than our own.  I don’t want to get into the details, but we were dependent on a separate web service keeping their API open and not having any downtime.  Plus, it was a pain to import new grades.  Not a great situation.

So I began working on a new version of The Key sometime in the past year (there have been a lot of starts and stops).  We put all the grade information in a database on our own server and began using an open source database front end to show that data.  We were even able to integrate a database of course syllabi that several groups at the University of Georgia had been working on.  We launched a beta of the new version in April.

And this past week I made a major breakthrough, fixing a sorting problem that was plaguing the grade data tables in the new version.  Incidentally, it also decreased the amount of time it takes a data table to show up in a web browser by about two-thirds (you have to remember to use the correct database structure and data formats- numerical versus variable characters in this case).

Over the weekend I worked on the design and style of the beta.  And last night (this morning, Eastern), I was comfortable enough to launch the new version and fulfill the promise I made on Twitter to launch this weekend.

This is really exciting event, and it’s also quite a relief.  But it isn’t the end by any means.  We still need to add as many course syllabi as we can find, and there are a few other tweaks that I would like to make.  I would also like to sell some advertising to Athens businesses and student groups, since the UGA Key is such an easy way to communicate with students (shameless plug – interested in reaching UGA students with your ads?).

Long live The Key!