CampusBuddy Gets A Facelift And More Social Skills In Time For The New School Year

For millions of students across the country summer is coming to a close, and CampusBuddy, a Facebook application and web portal that focuses on school courses and grades, is looking to capitalize on the Back-To-School rush. Today the site is launching a totally revamped homepage and Facebook application, a new text book search engine, and a number of new social features that it hopes will better connect students with their classmates. CampusBuddy is also adopting a freemium model today, with hopes of converting its rapidly growing base of users into paying customers.

We last covered CampusBuddy last fall, when the site launched to offer reports on grades handed out by professors at hundreds of universities across the country, which students can use to help figure out which classes they want to take. Since then, the site has been making some strong progress: in addition to the grade reports it’s also focusing on helping prospective students connect with colleges as they leave high school, and it’s also focusing more on helping students connect with eachother. It was also chosen as a Facebook Verified App, which CEO Michael Moradian says has been helpful in reaching new students — the company’s Facebook application has jumped from around 30,000 active users during the last school year to over 60,000 active users today.

Back in the old days of Facebook, when the site still revolved around college students, it offered a feature called “Courses” that allowed students to publicly display which courses they were taking. The app could be quite useful, but it was also limited, with plenty of room for improvement. Rather than continue to build out its own app, Facebook dropped its native Courses and left it up to developers to build their own applications.

CampusBuddy is one of the leading apps vying to take over this role, and today’s update may help in that race. The site’s Facebook application will now offer a Wall for every course at every University in its system, essentially giving students a central place to hold their course-specific discussions, which could prove very useful. But in order to participate or even see these conversations students will have had to install the CampusBuddy app, and the app’s 60,000 users is still only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of students on Facebook.

That said, if CampusBuddy can become the de facto college app on the site, its user-base could snowball. Moradian is optimistic about this possibility, and says that CampusBuddy is the most popular application on Facebook to let students search through a database of courses at their school, explaining that while there are some other popular apps that allow users to enter the courses they’re taking, they’re all user submitted which can result in duplicate entries. The CampusBuddy app itself is quite robust, featuring areas for general discussions, schedules, and more — I would have much rather used something like this than the old Facebook Courses app during my school days. Now it just needs a wider student community to embrace it.

Also worth noting: CampusBuddy is now switching to a freemium model. Up until now the startup has offered its database of grades free of charge — now it will begin charging a small fee for users to access the grades and related analysis as part of its ‘Academic Edge’ package. Access costs $4.99 for three months or $8.99 for a year (it grows cheaper if you buy multiple years at a time). Students likely won’t be too pleased with the change, but competitors like MyEdu (formerly PickaProf) have had freemium models for some time now, so this isn’t particularly surprising.