Move over, NovaTeachers

Lauren Docktor

With the fall semester rapidly approaching midterm week, many students are questioning their reasoning for taking certain professors, something that sophomore computer science major Ira Blossom is working to eliminate. 

Like many students, Blossom was frustrated by the existing registration process, as he did not believe that the University-supplied rating system, CATS, was a sufficient resource for teacher evaluations. 

“I support CATS, but at the same time, it’s not a good idea to rely solely on multiple choice answers at the end of a course,” Blossom says. 

Another popular alternative when considering which courses to enroll in, NovaTeachers, does not allow new users to register, and only current students with old usernames and passwords can view the content. Blossom saw this as an opportunity. 

“What is going to happen two years down the road when people need registration help?” he says. “I thought I would just make another one, and it worked out.”

Blossom had his first encounter with web design when his father, a pastor, enlisted his help to create a website for his church. From there, Blossom’s fascination with web design grew into a hobby, a major and, as of this summer, domain name originated from many back and forth ideas between Blossom and those around him. 

“A friend of mine was telling me how talkative a friend of theirs was and how they had a loudmouth; from there it was a perfect idea,” Blossom says. 

Armed with a catchy name, Blossom created the website, which, according to its “about” page, aims to offer an alternative source for reviews. Unlike NovaTeachers, LoudMouthU also offers opportunities to review events around campus, entertainment, clubs and organizations and restaurants, not just professors. 

“The main difference between LoudMouthU and NovaTeachers is that NovaTeachers is just for professors,” Blossom says. “I thought people would be interested in other stuff as well.”

While professor reviews are currently the most popular section of the website, the different categories answer questions that many students, particularly freshmen, might find extremely valuable, such as what Hoops Mania is really like, or how the new renovations to the Quad hold up to a student view. 

Blossom also incorporated several aspects of design that can be seen in today’s current social networking sites, such as friend requests, mentioning people in posts and sending private messages to other users. 

While the current user number is still relatively small with around 50 users, Blossom has high hopes for extending the audience beyond his immediate friends. 

“Right now I’m starting different conversations and topics,” he says. “People comment, and it gets bigger. More people is more information, and students want to hear broader examples.”

Unlike NovaTeachers, students do not need to have a Villanova e-mail in order to register and can make their username whatever they choose. Blossom does monitor user registration and maintains administrator status in order to combat inappropriate comments or users that are deemed hackers, like two he encountered this summer while setting up the basic prototype. 

The fourth, and current, prototype went live in early August. 

“I wanted to wait until it was close to school to get some reviews so it could be up and then get new users and reviews,” Blossom says. 

While LoudMouthU is specifically designed for Villanova students, Blossom left room for expansion across college campuses. 

“I kept it pretty abstract so if it works, I could open it up to other schools and maybe make a business out of it,” Blossom says. If this were to happen, Blossom would create a subdirectory while maintaining the current website’s template and domain name.

The website was a result of a three-month process, as Blossom created the first prototype of in early June. 

“I had to figure out the submission process, design the layout and how users are going to interact,” Blossom says. In order to do this, he used a Content Management System called Word Press, which allowed him to build and add new features to the website, such as allowing all e-mail addresses to register. He also added extensive security software to fix errors that his friends, who had served as testers throughout the summer, had observed. 

Blossom, who is also the vice president of the club basketball team and the Blue Key Society website and media chair, typically checks and makes improvements on the site three to four times a week and links all activity to his own e-mail account. 

While quite a time investment, starting the original website also required monetary investment of a little over $100 to cover the cost of the domain name, the web post provider and new computer programs and software necessary to maintain it. In order to determine if he could get any return on his investment, Blossom also incorporated ads using a “Cost per Click” model which generates money for the advertiser if a user follows the links.

“I used my personal money to fund it, so I wanted to see if I could get anything out of it — it’s more of a test,” Blossom says.

The content of the ads contain items appropriate for Blossom’s target audience, college students, and have generated Blossom about an average profit of about $3 per month. 

“I’m definitely not doing it for the money,” Blossom says.

Instead, Blossom hopes that his website becomes a popular forum for students to share information to help them make decisions in all aspects of their Villanova lives, particularly regarding teacher selections. 

“I don’t want to be the main influence, but I want to become quite a large portion of it,” Blossom says. As his domain name states, Blossom hopes that his start-up website and forum will soon become the talk of the campus.