UW-Madison student innovators win Desire 2 Learn grand prize

March 5, 2014

by Lika Balenovich

An idea that began as a homework assignment for two UW-Madison sophomores living in Sellery Hall's Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community, has since grown into a fully functional, award-winning website that serves hundreds of UW-Madison students.

Drew McLean

Drew McLean

MySyllabiMadison.com is a free and easy-to-use website that allows users to create, edit, send and download any calendar onto their computer, smartphone, iPod, iPad, or tablet. The website helps busy students, professors, event planners, student organizations and clubs to effectively manage their time and scheduling.

The site was developed by Drew McLean, a Wisconsin School of Business student and accounting major from West Bend, Wis., and Jake Schieber, a computer engineering major from Portage, Wis.

Jake Schieber

Jake Schieber

Recently the pair learned that their website was the winner of the 2014 Desire 2 Learn Edge Challenge, a contest that gives post-secondary students a chance to shape the future of learning in new and exciting ways.

"The D2L competition has taught me to never give limits to what you can achieve, and if you really want something bad enough, then you will do whatever it takes to achieve it," McLean says.

This year's $10,000 prize was given to the team that could build a web application that improved upon an aspect of the educational experience.

"One of our homework assignments was to come up with a 'bug list' of things that annoyed you that could potentially be turned into a business," McLean says. "A student in my group thought it was annoying how every class has a course syllabus on paper. It was hard to keep track of all the dates."

This assignment sparked an idea, which McLean and Schieber used to develop their website, working during the summer to test different design templates and refine the website.

With some help from the Student Business Incubator, which provided workspace, and the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, which offered legal advice, McLean and Schieber found resources and support for their idea across campus.

Desire 2 Learn logo

This July, McLean and Schieber will head to Nashville for the Desire 2 Learn Fusion Conference, where they will explore the ways in which e-learning and new mobile learning technologies can change the ways we teach and learn. However, McLean and Schieber are just beginning to explore the possibilities of their website.

"We want to improve MySyllabiMadison to the point where it could be adopted campuswide," McLean says. "What we offer can be used in an educational context from middle schools to universities and we want to focus on making our product more marketable and distinguished from other potential competitors."

Their story is one example of Educational Innovation, the initiative which examines how new learning practices and technologies may enhance educational delivery and improve teaching, learning and the student experience at UW-Madison.

"It is important for students to participate in innovative projects or experiments due to the amazing real-world experience it provides," McLean says. "I have had to step out my comfort zone in countless situations and have had to set my own goals and follow through with them."

To learn more about the Desire 2 Learn Edge Challenge, click here.