February 27, 2001

Low Turnout For CoursEnroll Tests

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If all goes well, the University Registrar’s Office, in conjunction with Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) and the Student Assembly (S.A.), hope to bring the Cornell community add/drop online and an improved version of CoursEnroll.

Complaints following the October 2000 online CoursEnroll period prompted the offices to work towards improving the way the University handles course registration and changes.

The efforts to improve the program took the form of two recent online simulations carried out under CIT’s supervision. The first simulation, which involved the close monitoring of the system’s progress and capability to handle a large amount of activity, took place on Jan. 29 and drew in approximately 670 students. A second simulation was offered Feb. 13 in hopes of gaining a higher level of student participation.

“The tests were a bit disappointing,” said Mark Mara, CIT director of integration and delivery. “An e-mail was sent out to the entire student body, but we only drew in about 600 students each time. We were trying to simulate a peak hit of 3,000 students because that is the load we’ve recently seen.”

According to Mara, the students involved made up for the low participation by showing a high level of activity during the one-hour simulations. “Over 50,000 commands were sent through CoursEnroll during each testing period,” added Mara. “The students we got were an active bunch.”

One of the main complaints received after October’s session, according to Mara, was the fact that students were getting completely kicked out of CoursEnroll in the middle of their work. Mara explained CIT’s pride in their solution to this problem, which he cited as “queuing.”

“Before the improvements were made, you could get thrown out even after you started working,” said Mara. “Now we have something we call ‘queuing’, which essentially keeps people in queue. This means we are able to slow down gracefully, instead of just throwing people out.”

In addition to bringing improvements to the online CoursEnroll program, the University Registrar’s Office is looking into making add/drop an online activity as well.

“We’re waiting to see if the tests generated enough information to determine if we can do add/drop online,” said Christopher Cox, associate University registrar. “We hope to have come to a conclusion by the middle of this week.”

If enough improvements can be made to the program’s ability to handle a large amount of hits to the site at one time, the online add/drop may become a reality, according to Cox.

However, the small participation rate in the two simulations also prevented an adequate test of this possible online version of add/drop. Enrollment is broken down by classes, but add/drop would involve all students hitting the system at once.

“We wanted to be able to simulate, under close supervision, what would happen with this lack of division of students,” Mara said.

The S. A. has been actively endorsing the creation of this online add/drop program for over two-and-a-half years, according to Michael L. Bronstein ’02, S.A. vice president for public relations.

“Many of us began to get involved with this issue when we first started running for office,” Bronstein said. “The add/drop system is online at many universities, and we believe the use of the system here could save students a lot of time and hassle.”

Bronstein commended the work and response of CIT and the University Registrar’s Office.

“We know everyone’s been working very hard for a long time to make the add/drop a reality, and we sincerely hope that the efforts of the administration and students will lead to the creation of this system that I believe will benefit everyone,” he said.

Archived article by Aylin Tanyeri