A new way of visualising the EPFL course catalog

Two EPFL students have developed a new method of navigating the course catalog in the form of a pre-requisites graph.

The traditional way students browse for courses at EPFL is through a list of course titles and descriptions. This format is enough to understand what each course covers in terms of subjects, but does a very poor job in showing how courses relate to each other. In particular, students would benefit in knowing precisely which courses are pre-requisites to others.

Pre-required courses are rarely specified by teachers in their course descriptions. This is why two EPFL students, Maxime Coriou and Raphaël Steinmann, working at the CEDE for their semester projects (with the collaboration of a summer intern, Indira Sen), developed a graphical user interface for navigating the course dependencies graph of the EPFL course catalog.

The dependencies are determined based on both human and machine input. There are “hard edges”, which correspond to pre-requisites specified by teachers themselves, and “soft edges” estimated by analysing the text in the course descriptions using natural language processing.