It’s a few hours after your registration appointment begins and suddenly it dawns on you — you forgot to register for the classes in your myUCF cart. Instead of getting stuck refreshing your browser every hour to see if someone dropped the classes you wanted, you signed up for U Could Finish, a short message service that sends you a text message as soon as a seat in your desired class opens up.
The website became of interest when it was promoted on UCF’s Reddit page on June 6. Reddit is a website that allows its users to share new ideas and interests through forum boards.
The tool checks myUCF on an interval up to every 60 seconds and texts you immediately when a seat becomes available in the class you’re monitoring, according to the post on Reddit.
Tim Arnold, a marketing senior, created the U Could Finish SMS, and on Friday, June 8, Arnold discovered that U Could Finish was being blocked access to the myUCF servers. Arnold received no notice of this from UCF; he found out through the UCF Reddit page.
“Other schools are paying developers to do this while our school is building walls against this,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s biggest frustration came Friday morning when he received a summons pending charges from the Office of Student Conduct. The summons is for an appointment to determine if Arnold should be charged with two violations of the UCF Student Handbook: “Misuse of Computing and Telecommunications Resources (14g) — Use of computing facilities and telecommunications resources to interfere with normal operation of the University computing system and/or Misuse of Computing and Telecommunications Resources (14i) — Any violation of the University of Central Florida Use of Information Technology and Resources Policy.”
The appointment is set for July 12 in the Office of Student Conduct in Ferrell Commons. According to the letter, Arnold will have an opportunity to inspect and review all information that could be presented at a hearing. Currently, a hold has been placed on Arnold’s university records. If he fails to attend the appointment, he could be withdrawn from all enrolled courses and forfeit tuition and fees.
The comments for U Could Finish’s post on Reddit quickly multiplied after Arnold posted, “We’re currently offline as UCF has blocked our server without providing any notice.. we are working hard to find the reason for this block, and find if it will be permanent."
According to the U Could Finish webpage, UCF hadn’t returned Arnold’s calls about why the U Could Finish server was blocked.
Courtney Gilmartin, the communications coordinator for UCF News & Information, issued a statement a few days after U Could Finish was blocked access to myUCF servers.
“While the intent of UCouldFinish.com — helping students register for classes — is positive, the way in which the website works places an unmanageable load on UCF’s systems," Gilmartin said in an email. “Since mid-December, the website’s software has accessed UCF’s schedule search page up to 220,000 times as often as every 60 seconds. The frequency of these searches consumes myUCF resources, making it more difficult for other students to use the site."
After becoming an Orientation Team member for summer 2011, Arnold noticed that many of his students struggled with making their class schedules.
“I felt that there had to be a better answer than ‘just keep searching myUCF daily … maybe it will open up,’” Arnold said. “On top of that, I had very fresh memories of when I was in their shoes the previous semester, frustrated about a full pre-calc class I needed.”
After creating a failed tool that emailed students when class seats opened up for registration, Arnold plucked out his wallet and contacted an engineer in Lithuania to transform his crude prototype into a working application.
By December 2011, only six students were using the service.
“The initial version was so crude that it sent emails continuously when it found a seat opening — but it worked,” Arnold said. “About five people used it, and three or four actually got in the classes they needed. Their gratitude was enough to see that everyone at UCF should have the opportunity to use this tool. Thus, I started to work on the current version of U Could Finish just after spring finals and launched it officially [June 2].”
Although the new prototype was only launched at the beginning of this month, U Could Finish has had more than 500 unique visitors on the site and currently 50 classes are being monitored.
Johnny Lee, a recent UCF alumnus, used U Could Finish before it was relaunched. Lee is perplexed as to why UCF would block U Could Finish from the myUCF servers.
“It seems that UCF isn’t too fond of student entrepreneurs making headway before they do,” Lee said. “UCF should reconsider the ban on U Could Finish.”
A Reddit comment suggested that U Could Finish would overload myUCF, but Arnold said otherwise.
“This version of the script is highly optimized to reduce load on myUCF as much as possible,” Arnold posted on Reddit. “It only searches for the exact classes users are trying to look for, and only on the interval they ask for. If multiple users are looking for the same class, it only queries it once for all of them.”
Arnold doesn’t believe that UCF is handling the situation fairly and started a petition on Change.org Wednesday to bring back U Could Finish.
“The purpose of the petition is to give students a voice," Arnold said. “If they agree that UCF class registration is broken and want to stand up for something to be done about it, signing the petition will help us communicate to administration that this is a serious issue that we want fixed sooner, rather than later. While I acknowledge that U Could Finish was not the best solution to this problem, it was a start. And without a start, there can’t ever be a finish.”
However, Gilmartin’s statement did recognize a myUCF issue and said that UCF is working on making changes to the website.
“UCF is in the process of creating a function that would automatically enroll students in selected classes in which space becomes available,” Gilmartin said. "Discussions are in the early stages, and no timeframe for implementation has been set.”