February 4, 2003

University Debuts New Add/Drop System

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Students returning to Cornell this semester with schedule alterations to make were spared the endless lines and tedious waits at Barton Hall that usually accompany the University’s add/drop process. The opening of the spring 2003 semester gave students the opportunity to use the first-ever online add/drop system.

The add/drop process has been streamlined into a new electronic format, rendering the old system of paper forms and signatures obsolete. Under the previous system, students needed to visit department representatives and receive a stamp on their add/drop forms for new classes. Students then brought the forms to their college registrar’s office, where schedules were updated.

“This method worked well when Cornell’s enrollment was a few thousand students and the faculty teaching each course was present to talk about their course,” said University registrar David Yeh.

Yeh added that “Over the years, each college’s participation in Course Exchange changed — faculty participation declined, departments decided to meet students in their department offices rather than in one central place, and, of course, we also had many more courses to offer. Naturally, our enrollment size only contributed to what students described as a frustrating experience.”


The new add/drop system allows students to choose which classes they will add or drop online, making it possible for them to alter their schedules directly. The new service was included with the latest release of Just The Facts, and works in the same format as its CoursEnroll service. The most recent version of the software was made available on Dec. 2, 2002, six weeks before the start of the add/drop period.

Jamie Peters ’04 was impressed with the new advantages of the electronic system.

“It was amazing,” Peters said. “There was no running around to get signatures. [The old system] took too long to get signatures, you had to make special trips to turn in your slips, you had to track down your advisors.”

Not only was the change beneficial to students, but to university staff as well.

“Staff in the college registrars’ offices no longer had to key in the100,000 changes that occur each semester; information about course enrollments and availability was more quickly available to students, faculty and staff, and we will learn how to improve this process for the future,” Yeh said.

The implementation of the new system was the result of a considerable amount of testing and preparation. Issues such as network firewalls and computer compatibility posed challenges, but when the time came for students to begin using the service it functioned without any performance problems.


Seniors and juniors were able to use the service on Jan. 16, followed by sophomores, freshmen, and graduate students on Jan. 17. On Jan 20 online add/drop was activated for all students. The add service is available until February 7, while the drop service will remain available until March 7.

Students appreciated the ease with which the new system operated.

“It worked out great for me. It was easy as can be, and I got all the classes that I needed,” Dustin Johnson ’06 said.

Sara Olson ’05 was similarly impressed. “This year, it was just a click of a button. I actually dropped a class while on campus in a computer lab, which was very convenient. Also, I was more willing to sign up for a class because I knew it was not a big commitment if I later dropped it.”


Individual colleges within the University were given the choice of whether or not to allow students who use the add/drop service to do so without the approval of their advisor.

Those colleges that required an advisor’s approval permitted advisors to control their students’ access to the add/drop service. These students were only allowed to utilize the system after their schedule changes had been discussed with and confirmed by their advisors.

Unlike CoursEnroll, in which students can request classes but are not guaranteed a place in those classes, classes added with the add/drop service are guaranteed. Once a class has been added, that class is officially on the student’s schedule.

Classes which can be enrolled in by permission of instructor only are not included in the new system and must be added by visiting the department. There is also no online wait-list for classes that have become fully enrolled, although this service is among the additions being considered for future versions of the software.

The Office of the University Registrar is currently reviewing feedback regarding the system and preparing for the fall add/drop period.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco