It is the day before an exam. Your teacher is very strict and doesn’t allow any talking or cell phones during class, or he glares at you saying “If you want to talk leave the classroom.” Your palms get sweaty thinking about all the material that was covered in class and the notes that you missed that one day you were sick. All your classmates look nervous too, but nobody is bold enough to ask a complete stranger for help in understanding the concepts that were taught or for the class notes that you missed.
This is the situation that one of the creators of UniYu, Michael Shapiro, found himself in during his university experience at McGill. “I didn’t know a single person in my class and I was freaking out the day before my exam that I had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go,” said Shapiro.
The university experience is indeed a less personal one than high school or CÉGEP, where friendships are created and reinforced over time. Instead, university is a sea of nameless faces.
Shapiro, along with a team of four current and former students from Montreal universities including Concordia, shared this common struggle during their time at school and they decided to create a support network for the students by the students, so that they could share notes, homework, express their opinion and guide students to make the right choice when it comes to classes, professors or student clubs. They named it UniYu.
UniYu is free to join, but you must be a student from either McGill, Concordia, Université de Montréal, UQAM or HEC Montréal. The UniYu team wishes to expand membership in the future, but they are doing the best they can considering they only started the network roughly two weeks ago.
Any university student knows that success in a class depends as much on the professor’s teaching abilities as the actual class content. That is why for many students, picking an elective can be a gamble. UniYu, like a helpful friend, is there to steer you in the right direction.
“At McGill, even though you could read the course descriptions and it serves as a guideline, I had to go out of my way to try to meet the older kids in my department and talk to them about which classes I should take and which ones I shouldn’t. I did a math major and a lot of people are really quiet and reserved so there was really no way I could go and find reviews to guide me,” said Shapiro.
“[Students] can discuss and vote on their professors and classes so students can get to know others’ experiences and opinions on professors and classes,” said Concordia UniYu team member, doctoral student and graduate in computer science, Ehsan K. Asl.
What is the difference between UniYu and other social network sites? “UniYu is a social network catered to students’ and academic affairs only. You need to have an active university email address to be able to join the network,” said Asl.
As written on UniYu’s official website, the goal is not to share personal information, but rather to share information that is useful to others. It is not about staying in touch with friends or checking up on people, like Facebook, but rather to meet new students and to “get the best out of your university experience.”
But when it comes to sharing notes on UniYu, the website’s terms and conditions indicates that the rules of your university will prevail.
Even though this network has the same feature as the popular Rate My Profs website, UniYu goes even further. Students who have had a class can give advice or suggestions about specific classes and about professors, as well as exam advice.
Another UniYu team member from Concordia, Afshin Moazami, a graduate student in quality systems engineering with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, said that “UniYu offers the connections and links to other students based on their needs. Either they need to share a ride to school, information about a specific class or professor, a place to stay one night in another city, etc.”
So what lies ahead for UniYu? In about a week, UniYu will develop live chats for classrooms which, according to Shapiro, will prove to be especially helpful in some Concordia lectures.
UniYu has been doing well so far―Moazami said he is excited about the quick popularity of UniYu. “Just one week after the launch, we had more than 300 students from HEC Montréal and less than 20 from Concordia,” he said.
Shapiro agreed that the biggest challenge is to get people involved because nobody wants to go on a website where they only see 15 people signed up and where nobody is really participating.
“It is hard to convince people to sign up when it is not complete yet,” he said. “This is the kind of idea that when it catches on and everybody decides to participate, it will be amazing and people are going to love it.”
If you would like more information about UniYu, visit www.uniyu.com.