(Photo by Flickr user Michael Wyszomierski, used under a Creative Commons license)
Starting a company and going to college aren’t always possible to do at the same time. For one Johns Hopkins startup, however, entrepreneurship helped make the school a little easier.
After working at a Google internship, Noah Presler and two friends from other colleges that he met in Silicon Valley launched a company called Semester.ly to make course registration less of a drag. They brought it Johns Hopkins in the fall of 2015 and pushed it out on social media after courses got released.
“Overnight we had 1,500 students,” said Presler, a senior computer science major. “By the end of the week, we had 4,500 users.”
Rather than searching for a specific class and making each one fit into a schedule, the tool recommends courses based on preferences that user enters. Along with course requirements, considerations like date and time of day are taken into account. It can also link students with textbooks and course ratings.
The system also looks to update the process for the social era. The schedule is color-coded. Courses can be rated on an emoji scale. Students can also see what courses their friends are picking.
Since launching, Presler said Semester.ly is being used at the University of Maryland, the University of Toronto, Queen’s University in Ontario and Vanderbilt. They’re aiming for expansion. About a dozen people are working on the effort.
Students still officially register for courses at JHU using the university’s own system, but Presler sees potential to license the technology to larger learning management systems in the future.
Hopkins has been supportive of the effort. The startup received a total of $10,000 through a pair of grants from the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund.
Along with the money, Presler said working with Kasim Ahmad and others at Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures helped him make connections to mentors. Other startups to receive funding include Proscia and FitMango.
Applications for the next cohort are open through Oct. 31.