By Dilan Nana
Enrollment for spring quarter courses opened on Sunday, leaving many students on at least one waitlist. But three Stanford seniors are looking to give students an upper hand in the race to enroll: introducing Ally, a Google Chrome extension which continuously checks Axess and tries to enroll the user in a course of their choosing.
If a student doesn’t have time to keep checking for open spots, the extension will do that for them. It also compiles each user’s schedule from Axess and allows for it to be transferred to Google Calendar.
The program’s founders, Kevin Yang ‘19, Will Hang ‘19 and Jihua Liu ‘19 set out to create the company that would become Ally in the hopes of using artificial intelligence (AI) to help people “eliminate the time and effort spent on mundane, repetitive, and complex tasks.”
Ally’s founders said they, like other Axess users, have run into the red notification “Unable to Enroll. Class ____ is full” when they click “enroll” minutes after midnight, as Axess can become overwhelmed with the number of users on the platform. They added that students may find the task of manually entering class schedules on applications such as Google Calendar very time consuming.
Yang, Hang and Liu began mulling over the idea of using AI to help people a year and a half ago and began learning to code “about one month before school [fall quarter 2018] started,” Yang said. They decided they wanted to help improve the user experience with Axess and the enrollment process, and as of this quarter they have found themselves operating a program that has “over 500 accounts,” Yang added. He said Ally could possibly be expanded to help people accomplish tasks beyond course enrollment at Stanford.
Haley Farnsworth ’21 said Ally helped her get into the course FrenLang 60D: “French Viticulture” also known as Wine Tasting.
“I used [Ally] … after the class was already full,” Farnsworth said. “It was super quick to install, and it basically just ran on my browser. It took a few tries, but eventually I got enrolled and was stoked. I was definitely surprised that it worked.”
“[Ally] really helped streamline my planning for classes,” said Katherine Du ’21. “It was so convenient to have a quick and easy way to download the academic calendar as well as my class schedule directly into my Google Calendar.”
While Ally is currently intended only for Stanford students, Yang said the company is “growing at a pretty good rate” and is looking to expand beyond Stanford to help more people complete various tasks.
Regarding the role of Stanford policies in Ally’s use of automated course enrollment, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote, “The university is aware of this matter and is gathering information.”
Contact Dilan Nana at dilan99 ‘at’ stanford.edu.