October 28, 2000

Students, CIT Struggle With CoursEnroll Problems

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Besides the common reasons for pulling an all-nighter, the recent problems students have had accessing the University’s CoursEnroll service are adding one more, according to many Cornellians.

Since the CoursEnroll period has begun for upperclassmen, students registering for their spring semester courses have run into problems that that arose from outdated software and low-capacity network servers.

“I didn’t get into one of my classes for my major even though I stayed up until 1:45 in the morning,” said Gretchen Poulos ’03.

As a result, Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) is monitoring the registration program to alleviate the burden students face. CIT is also continuously adding servers to mitigate the difficulties that have come up.

The early hours of Oct. 21 brought a considerable surge in usage of CoursEnroll, mainly because both sophomores and juniors were first allowed to access the program on that day.

“Between midnight and 3 a.m., 1,365 students enrolled in 6,721 classes,” said Rick MacDonald, director of CIT information technologies. “There was an enormous load on the servers.”

As a result of the problems with the current software, CIT has steadily increased the number of network distribution servers in order to help handle simultaneous connections. On Oct. 14, the University service provider had one server; on Oct. 21 it was functioning with six.

This Saturday, when freshmen begin registering for their courses, CIT will offer 21 servers to the campus community.

“We were aware of the delays and difficulties that people were having,” MacDonald said. “And we had a large staff [at CIT] tuning the system in response to the load.”

He added, “The program staff has been working to alleviate potential bottlenecks. It’s an ongoing effort and a high priority.”

According to CIT staff, the continuing problems encountered by students using CoursEnroll are mostly load-related. These concerns deal with a specific type of commercial software that CIT is trying to modify, but the modifications will not be complete by freshman course registration.

CIT stated that students may encounter a “create socket failed” error that indicates system overload. CIT suggests that if students receive this error, they should try enrolling later.

The reduced number of students using the system combined with steps taken by CIT to lessen the load on the servers should significantly improve the registration process tomorrow.

Still, CIT believes that the network servers could suffer if all eligible students use CoursEnroll at midnight tomorrow.

“CoursEnroll has been changed to a Java-based application,” said David S. Yeh, assistant vice president of student academic services and University registrar.

According to Yeh, CoursEnroll was designed with significant feedback, testing and the validation of numerous students. The advantages of the program this year are its navigability and accessibility through a web browser.

“The performance, which everyone is working on, is not a result of the new design,” said Yeh. “Rather, the culprit may be the Student Information System itself, which is old and will likely need significant modifications.”

Student leaders say they are aware that CIT is working hard on fixing the computer glitches associated with CoursEnroll and are trying to encourage patience.

“CoursEnroll has been revamped since last year, and aside from the three hour delay we all experienced this past weekend, is apparently working better than ever before,” said Karl Johnson ’03, chair of the Student Assembly (S.A.) Committee on Information and Technologies.

“CIT has been working hard on the CoursEnroll program and server, so the S.A. has had no reason to give them a hard time about it,” Johnson said. “[A large number of] simultaneous log-ins to any server are going to be difficult to handle.”

For technical support regarding CoursEnroll, students can contact the CIT HelpDesk from midnight on Friday, Oct. 27 to 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, or call 255-8990. The Office of the University Registrar will also be available to answer questions about CoursEnroll during the same hours at 254-4795.

Archived article by Ritu Gupta