Semester.ly ranks among the most impressive student-driven successes at Johns Hopkins in recent decades. Co-founded by computer science student Noah Presler ’17 in October 2015, the innovative course scheduling platform has taken root at Johns Hopkins and at other universities in North America.
The platform aims to streamline the difficult process of course selection with an eye to students’ needs. Using Semester.ly, students can configure a conflict-free schedule electronically, including on their mobile device. The database also pulls in information on course ratings and evaluations.
Kristin Yim, a third-year student in the Department of Computer Science at the Whiting School, is among those working on the open-source platform to sustain that success. She and the Semester.ly team are adding new features (including the use of machine learning to suggest classes) and forging key relationships with faculty members and administrators to build on the platform’s value.
Yim interned as an engineer at Google last year and will return as an associate product manager this summer. The experience she gained at Semester.ly is invaluable in the increasingly competitive environment for internships, she says. “Even if you’ve got a great GPA and are doing great in your classes, if you don’t have real project tools, they don’t really want you.”
Partnerships are ensuring that more Johns Hopkins students will gain those skills at Semester.ly. Yair Amir, a professor of computer science at the Whiting School, and Joanne Selinski, director of undergraduate studies in the department, have been strong supporters of the platform. Yim also took a course Amir developed called Software for Resilient Communities, “where students can work on open-source projects like Semester.ly and gain credit for them.”
Ali Soylu ’04, MS ’07, who works in University Information Systems at Johns Hopkins, says that his department has developed a Semester.ly “Jay Squad” team, providing Yim with technical mentoring and resources, as well as student employment opportunities.
Such investment is paying off. The Office of the Registrar has integrated Semester.ly into course enrollment so that students can directly export their selections on the platform into the electronic registration system.
Yim says helping fellow students through Semester.ly is one of the best parts of the effort. “If you make something cool and no one uses it,” she says, “what was the point?”