Today the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) introduces an improved way to search the UW’s online course catalog. This improved search functionality, available from the Course Catalog website, leverages the recently-released version 4 of the UW’s Student Web Services (SWS). We encourage the entire UW community to try it and offer their feedback so the OUR can improve upon it.
What’s the search like now
Currently, the course catalog search uses a Google custom search box to find and display pages that contain the entered keywords. While this is certainly effective, it’s not optimal when you’re looking for something specific. Suppose you’re looking for the description for Psychology 207, the Psychology of Peace. With the current Google-based search the top result takes you to the Psychology page, but you still must locate Psych 207 on that page.
How is the improved search better?
The improved search gets results directly from the SWS rather than a set of regular HTML pages. (The SWS will also power the forthcoming m.UW iPhone application). This brings a number of benefits, including:
- Course-specific results — easily see all the details of the matching courses, from description to credits.
- Optional search by term — find the perfect class for next spring by narrowing your search to a specific quarter, if desired.
- Instant updates — updates made to the course data are immediately available.
What does “beta” mean?
The label “beta” indicates the improved search is not ready to replace the existing course catalog search. Some features are not yet available, such as Instructor Course Descriptions. Nor does the improved search page yet meet full accessibility guidelines. As additional functionality is added to the SWS, the course catalog search will improve. And the OUR would like to know what you think, too! We strongly encourage your feedback so we know what additional features to work on first.
Finally, the OUR would like to acknowledge the incredible efforts put forth by the Office of Information Management, UW Technology, and members of this office to bring course information to the SWS. The improved search and other innovations to improve the UW experience wouldn’t be possible without their work.
UPDATE: After 10 days of use and more than 2200 unique visitors, version 1.1 has been posted. Thanks to insightful feedback from over 90 people, this update includes a few important bug fixes and clarifies some of the language on the page. Much of the feedback included feature requests (primarily, the ability to search course descriptions, not just titles). More improvements are on the way!