“We’re all out of the Serif, would you like the Salad?”: McCormick sophomore creates new course scheduling platform


Daisy Conant/The Daily Northwestern

A mock up of this reporter’s schedule on Salad.nu. The website, which Xu launched Saturday, serves as a companion for CAESAR’s course selection to help students build and visualize their course schedules.

Daisy Conant, Reporter

When it was announced that Serif.nu, the much-appreciated mock course scheduling website run by Northwestern undergraduates, was deprecating, students took to social media with calls to save the platform. But with registration nigh, and no formal plan to maintain or replace the site, it looked like students would have to navigate the tedious process of planning their classes on their own.

That is, until McCormick sophomore Andy Xu served up Salad.nu.

The website, which Xu launched on Saturday, serves as a companion for CAESAR’s course selection to help students build and visualize their course schedules (hence the name “Salad,” a play on Caesar salad).

Salad was born out of a project to both learn React, a JavaScript library, and keep himself “grounded” over quarantine, Xu said. Inspired by Serif, Salad shares several of its core features, most notably a Monday to Friday calendar interface where students can lay out potential classes. Using NU’s course data API, the platform provides up-to-date information on class descriptions, attributes, and meeting dates and times.

However, there are some notable differences. For one, it’s green (but you can switch it to a night-mode version if you wish). It also doesn’t allow users to place asynchronous classes on their mock schedule or to browse course listings by school or subject, requiring students to use the site in conjunction with the course descriptions page. Xu noted in a message on the site that this has been a frequent feature request from students, but he won’t be able to add that functionality this quarter.

There are some new additions as well. Unlike Serif, Salad offers a map element where students can see where each class is scheduled to take place on campus — a feature that may be more helpful once in-person classes fully return. Salad also offers students the chance to export their class schedule directly into Google Calendar.

Medill senior Stephanie Shin said she and other members of the Mock Trial team have been using Salad as a tool to help coordinate classes. She noted that she was initially skeptical that someone would find a way to replace Serif and was very excited to see the creation of another class scheduling program.

“I actually really like Salad, I think they’ve added some really cool features,” Shin said. “It’s been very useful… especially since you can search whether a class is asynchronous, hybrid or synchronous.”

Xu said the site saw “way more” traffic at its launch than he expected, receiving over 3,000 hits last Saturday after being promoted in various student Facebook groups. He noted that both students and people that work on CAESAR have been “pretty receptive” to the site, adding that he hasn’t received many major complaints.

“It actually seems to be going pretty smoothly so far,” Xu said. “I’m surprised how well it’s done.”

While the launch was welcomed with a sigh of relief by many students, it wasn’t wholly surprising. NU students have been stepping in for years to create more user-friendly answers to CAESAR — including Joon Park (Bienen ’18), who created Serif to replace a similar course organizing platform, Brutus.

In an email to The Daily, Park said he “wholeheartedly supports” the trend, adding while he did think this year was an appropriate time for Serif to end, he is excited that other students “will get the opportunity to learn and grow as a result of building their own applications.”

“I’m glad to hear other students are stepping in to make replacements of Serif,” Park said. “At a place like Northwestern I was sure students would rise to the occasion.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @daisy_conant