Noah Presler, a recent Hopkins graduate who received his B.S. in computer science, is one of the three co-founders of Semester.ly. This website serves as an course scheduling platform for college students originally established at Johns Hopkins and quickly spreading across many institutions across the United States and Canada.
Since its initial launch in October 2015, Semester.ly has rapidly attracted numerous undergraduate users.
After gaining more than 1,000 users at Hopkins within the first 24 hours of its launch, the Semester.ly’s server has reached more than two million searches from tens of thousands of users.
Presler explained that the idea for Semester.ly first stemmed from dissatisfaction with current course scheduling websites like SIS.
After talking to a few peers, Presler, as well as the co-founders Rohan Das and Felix Zhu, realized that many students felt the same.
In fact many Hopkins students today still share the same frustration with the unnecessarily stressful course registration process. While having sushi, Presler and Das decided to purchase the website domain for just $75. Semester.ly was ready to launch.
Presler first presented the prototype to a few friends to test whether it could solve the scheduling problems at hand.
After obtaining positive reviews, they progressed to design a logo and “declared war on ISIS [ISIS being the former name for SIS].” From there Semester.ly grew and expanded at a rapid rate.
Today Semester.ly has evolved to become not only an course scheduling website, but also a place for students to network with classmates.
“I really enjoy using Semester.ly because it’s an easy way to see which one of your friends are in your classes,” sophomore Michelle Chiu said. “Additionally course reviews are just a click of a button away, making it a lot more accessible than having to find them on Blackboard. I can’t wait to see more universities out there using this site because it is really life changing.”
Semester.ly users span across nearly a dozen universities in the U.S., including the University of Maryland, Queen’s University, Salisbury University, George Washington University and the University of Michigan.
“Semester.ly embodies three core beliefs,” Presler said. “The first belief is that course registration should be an easy and centralized process.”
More than 30 students over the years have worked on Semester.ly in order to maintain the system and do the legwork for students in advance.
The tasks range from writing code to doing graphic designs. This way, students have access to an organized scheduling system. Recently, Semester.ly has also gone open source to allow the general public to contribute to the platform.
The second tenet of the platform is that education should be collaborative. According to Presler, a big goal of Semester.ly is to help students become more connected to their institution, as well as each other.
This, according to Presler, is why Semester.ly is now open source: to provide a future for the platform in which students are building and growing it in perpetuity.
Semester.ly hopes that by going open source anyone will be able to add their school, feature or bug fix to the platform.
Students can also bolster their resumes by contributing to an open source project like Semester.ly. Presler explained that they have tried to provide resources to make contributing to Semester.ly more accessible.
“We created documentation and tutorials which specifically teach beginners how to build and contribute with modern tools, and we can provide mentorship and hands-on guidance to anyone who needs it,” Presler said. “At Semester.ly, we really strive to give everyone a more stress free and collaborative college experience.”
After he graduated in May, Presler has been working for Google as an associate product manager. He and the entire Semester.ly team encourage all students to reach out and engage with the open source community, no matter their skill level.