February 12, 2001

Online Course Enrollment to Undergo Second Trial

Print More

An online add/drop system will come one step closer to reality when the second test involving students of an improved CoursEnroll program takes place from 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. tomorrow.

Online add/drop would allow students to adjust their course schedule using the Internet without obtaining physical departmental approval.

The first student test of the new system occurred on Jan. 29, during which time over 650 students tried to add and drop classes in a test version of CoursEnroll.

During the first test, the network load did not reach those levels expected during an online add/drop period, though it did at times create as many program commands as during pre-enrollment periods, according to Christopher Cox, associate university registrar. The average time a student waited to add a class during the first trial was less than one second, and no student had to wait more than two seconds, Cox said.

“We did not get near [full] capacity during the last test,” said Mark Mara ’69, director of Integration and Delivery in Cornell Information Technologies (CIT).

The University hopes that more students participate in the second test than the first.

Though an artificial network load may be added to the second test, “you really can’t simulate 6,000 students using the system,” Mara said.

As with the first trial, students will select classes from the Spring 2001 course roster using a version of CoursEnroll that closely resembles last fall’s version. However, their choices will not be retained nor affect their present or future class schedules.

Students should also discover that the CoursEnroll trial runs more smoothly than fall pre-enrollment as CIT has improved and increased the number of servers. This will result in faster service for students.

“My major issue with it [the old CoursEnroll] is how it would sometimes completely drop your connection after you tried to make some requests, and that it was slow,” Bryan Kressler ’03 said.

Another addition to the new CoursEnroll is a queue, which will allow students to wait in an electronic line — instead of losing their connections — when network traffic is jammed.

The second test is also expected to avoid some of the difficulties encountered during the first test.

Some participants in the first test were unable to enroll in classes because their Personal Identification Numbers, entered during fall’s pre-enrollment period, locked them out of making new course selections. Those students who contacted the CoursEnroll hotline had their accounts manually unlocked and were able to add and drop classes.

Another unexpected challenge during the first test was that a webpage, which was designed to provide updated statistics every minute on server load, became inaccessible from an overload of people trying to access it.

CIT expects this webpage to remain running during the second test. “It will provide feedback to students about the [network] load,” Mara said.

Despite these problems, “we were impressed with how students responded [to these difficulties],” Cox said.

He said that all students were still able to update their address information using the test program, thus creating an additional load on the servers.

Students who participate in this second trial are once again eligible to win prizes, including gift certificates to local restaurants and the campus store. Participants for the full hour are eligible to win a digital camera.

Depending on the results of the second test, CIT may recommend that online add/drop be implemented next fall, according to Mara.

Archived article by Peter Lin