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App repairs student connections torn by pandemic

October 20, 2021 By Ila Schrecker

Atulya Reddy, a computer science major, and senior at UW–Madison, needed to make some decisions in fall 2020.  Registering for courses, she and her friends were nervous about their classes, which would all be taught remotely.

We were really worried about going through these classes alone,” Reddy said, “because in our experience knowing other people in our classes has made all the difference.” 

Atulya Reddy, CEO of Demic LLC.

Reddy felt that one of the side effects of the pandemic was the absence of vital social learning that happens with in-person classes. They wanted to set themselves up for a productive academic year, where they could fully understand the content in their classes.

From there, Demic was born. Demic is an app created by students that facilitates academic support and social connection among UW–Madison students. About 800 students have already joined the app, which launched at the beginning of the semester. 

Users set up a Demic profile with school-related information (school year, major, student organizations), information about personality, and classmate preferences, which indicate differences, such as whether you’re looking for friends, study buddies, or “classmates on call,” a term that Demic is coining. 

“Classmates on call” are classmates that you message when you’re stuck on something but don’t necessarily meet with,” Reddy said. 

Reddy, CEO of Demic LLC, shared her initial inspiration for the app. She was planning on participating in a hack-a-thon, where the theme involved the enhancement of virtual education. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to form a team and create an app to mitigate the absence of social learning, a neglected side effect of the pandemic,” Reddy said. 

A screen shot from Demic.

Reddy felt like Demic was essential for such a large university like UW–Madison, where it can sometimes be challenging to connect with classmates and professors easily.  “It’s rare to get every one of our doubts resolved during lecture, discussion, or even office hours due to time constraints and feeling the need to exhibit a certain level of understanding in these settings,” Reddy said, “Demic is a safe space to ask all your questions while building personal relationships to support you through the current semester and beyond.”

She also commented on the value of knowing and interacting with your classmates: “Knowing other people in your class helps in so many ways,” Reddy said, “you can motivate each other, vent about your stress, [and] it’s just way more fun to go through a class and share that experience with others!”

While Demic was initially created to be used during virtual classes, Reddy said that it’s still relevant and helpful now, as in-person classes have returned. “While the pandemic brought this issue to light, we feel like this is still an issue even in in-person classes and especially at larger universities,” Reddy said, “[where] it can sometimes be a really intimidating environment to make brand new connections.”

Reddy is excited to continue to see the app grow and hopes to expand Demic beyond the UW–Madison campus. “Honestly the sky’s the limit for Demic’s potential to connect people,” Reddy said, “our vision is to expand to other college campuses and eventually to any organization that decides to interconnect its members.”