Knight Lab app makes class registration social

    Students can now hit the “back” button for a class search without holding their breath.

    Four Knight Lab students developed a way for course selection to become social for Northwestern students through Facebook integration. Romaine allows students to take on course registration from a social perspective by seeing which of their Facebook friends are registered for specific classes.   

    The website was developed to try and supplement for what Northwestern's CAESAR was lacking. Romaine went live the final week of Fall Quarter. The idea for Romaine stemmed from a discussion between Weinberg junior Nicole Zhu and Medill senior Suyeon Son earlier in the quarter.  

    “We both knew that there were problems with CAESAR, but everyone put up with it because it’s the only thing we can use,” Son said.    

    Medill juniors Mallory Busch and Ashley Wu joined Zhu and Son in their efforts to develop the program, bringing both journalistic and programming backgrounds.  

    “We all have very different backgrounds when it comes to developing, designing and product managing,” Son said. “Since we all knew each other and were more or less interested in the same thing, we decided to work on this project together for the quarter at the Knight Lab.” 

    Romaine was developed in the Northwestern University Knight Lab, a joint initiative between the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.  The team of technologists, journalists, designers and educators work together to advance news media innovation and applied acquired science skills through revolutionary experimentation.  

    “We were bouncing ideas back and forth with each other and were like, ‘Well, let’s start with something that our community wants,’” Son said. “The additional features came when we were brainstorming and we were talking about trends we had seen among our peer students.”

    Son talked about the trends she and the other developers noticed with regard to students posting their schedules on Facebook to compare with their peers. 

    “We really wanted to furnish the social aspect of choosing courses while we were building this app,” Son said.  

    By sending out a preliminary survey before beginning to build Romaine, the developers were able to target the needs of users based upon the process and factors considered during course selection, such as social interaction and communication with friends to select specific courses.  

    Romaine implements a two-step search system, first by allowing users to select specific schools within NU and then choose a specific class to filter their searches. Romaine grants users more freedom to look at options on a broader scale by allowing users to open a new tab and conduct multiple searches.  

    “This became a mumble jumble of us trying to address real issues that our own community was facing while bringing the social aspect of it together,” Son said.  

    Son stressed the website is a minimum viable product, using Romaine as a learning experiment for future products and a project to build upon. 

    Disclaimer: Mallory Busch serves as Digital Product Manager for North By Northwestern Magazine, Nicole Zhu serves as the Creative Director for and Ashley Wu has contributed to


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