William Hou, ICSSC Projects Committee
When it comes to viewing historical course grade distributions and pictures of the most adorable samoyeds, there’s no better tool than Zotistics. While AntAlmanac is a great tool for planning how your different classes fit together, Zotistics allows you to closely research each one.
In this post, we’ll show how Zotistics can help you with course planning, reveal some exclusive sneak peeks for our upcoming update, and explain how one of the most powerful tools for course exploration at UCI has become a meme in the ICS community.
Zotistics was created in the summer of 2019, inspired by a similar tool called ZotCurve. While ZotCurve was the first publicly available site to show historical grade distributions, it was missing many crucial features. If you want to learn more about Zotistics’ history, how it became affiliated with ICSSC, what’s up with the dog on the homepage, and much much more, make sure to check out the end of the article where we interview Josh, Zotistics’ creator.
Let’s look at all the features Zotistics has to offer! You can find the site here https://zotistics.com/ or just by Googling Zotistics!
How To Use Zotistics
On the homepage, you’ll see 6 different filters to get grade distributions by. By selecting “Fall” under “Quarters” and “2019–2020” under “School Year,” we can get the grade distribution for all classes taken during Fall Quarter of 2019.
While knowing that 43.1% of grades were A’s that quarter is certainly cool, it probably doesn’t help plan your classes that much.
Let’s see where Zotistics really shines by walking through a real example. Many undergraduates must take Math 2A to fulfill their major requirements. However, it is often difficult to choose a suitable professor. First, let’s take a look at the grade distribution for the course in general.
Suppose that Huber, K. and Youssefpour, H. are among the list of professors teaching the course. Let’s use the Compare feature to look at their respective grading trends. We’ll first add a new filter for “Huber, K.”, then click the “Compare” button to add filters for “Douglas, T.”
There’s a clear difference in how the two grade: one professor definitely gives a lot more As and Bs than the other. You can now use this new knowledge to select your courses accordingly!
There’s a ton more you can do with Zotistics like excluding online classes taken during the pandemic or viewing distributions in terms of raw student counts rather than proportions. Do explore on your own to see exactly how this powerful tool can fit your needs.
Of course, there is so much more to a class than its grade distribution. Zotistics was created from an understanding that grades are an important consideration for many students when scheduling classes. However, it is easy to forget that grades are not the only consideration. It’s up to you how much you value each factor in the course selection process.
The Creator of Zotistics
We recently interviewed Josh, the creator of Zotistics, about where the project has been and where it’s going.
(Responses edited for brevity)
What inspired you to create Zotistics?
I started working on Zotistics in the Summer of 2019 after a similar site, ZotCurve, was introduced. It was the first public website to show past grade distributions and it was really useful, but it lacked some features that I would have liked for it to have. So I started working on a python program that was originally meant just for myself, but as I continued working on it, I wanted a way to visualize the data I was computing, so I decided to make a website and make it public for the UCI community. The rest is history.
Did anyone help with development and how did the project become part of ICSSC?
I pretty much created Zotistics on my own, but I did get some occasional help from friends when I needed it. And since I was the only one working on the website, I had no one to hand it over to once I graduate, so I joined ICSSC to let them maintain it and keep it alive for students in the future.
What resources did you use to create a whole website by yourself as an undergrad?
I just used the usual resources most computer science students use: Google, YouTube, Stack Overflow, and a lot of documentation reading about Flask and Bootstrap.
What was it like communicating with UCI staff/registrar to create a student tool?
I email the UCI Public Records Office to get the grade distribution data every quarter and they’d send me a csv file once it’s ready, which usually takes about a month. I’ve also had some communication with Professor Pattis who tried to assist me in getting some missing class grade data, as well as trying to get the +/- grade data from the Public Records Office.
Can you tell us a little about why you wanted to rewrite the application?
The main reason I’m rewriting Zotistics with React and Express is because the rest of ICSSC’s projects are written in React and Express, so I thought it would be better to match the ICSSC Projects’ tech stack and gain some experience in using technologies most commonly used in the industry.
What new features we can look forward to seeing?
We’re working in a small group within the Projects committee on upgrading the compare feature, having more search options, dark mode, data analytics, and more. We also have an exciting new logo we’re working on that will launch with the refreshed site!
Tell us about the dog that’s become the unofficial mascot of Zotistics.
The first question that usually gets asked is if the dogs are mine; and the answer is unfortunately no. The dogs are random images I got from someone I knew who collected samoyed pictures. It’s a funny story: over a year ago, I asked him for a specific samoyed picture that I remembered him showing me. Initially, he couldn’t find it, but when he did, he refused to give it to me. So, to convince him to give me the picture, I added samoyeds to the Zotistics homepage.
We’re having this interview a few days after Valentine’s Day. Hit us with your best Zotistics pick up line.
I apologize for these:
Are you Zotistics? Cuz you’re perfect.
Are you that one class on Zotistics? Cuz I want you.
I like you like I like the graphs on Zotistics: curvy.
I’ll be there for you just like Zotistics is there for me.