October 27, 2006

Cornell to Overhaul CoursEnroll Program

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As students across campus go about the painstaking process of pre-enrolling for courses, the days of CoursEnroll, Cornell’s course enrollment system, will be numbered as soon as March 2008.

David S. Yeh, assistant vice president and University registrar, said that Cornell is planning a “major replacement of CoursEnroll” and the technological infrastructure that is used to administer student information.

“[The] new system will provide many new features we — students, faculty, academic administrators and those of us responsible for supporting the system — have been waiting patiently for, for many years,” Yeh said.

In addition to CourseEnroll, the new system will replace other University information-handling tools such as those that manage academic and bursar records, financial aid, and admissions applications. The new system will be accessed via an Internet browser, eliminating the Bear Access desktop software package, which Yeh described as “solid, but a bit clunky.”

CoursEnroll, which Yeh said debuted at Cornell about ten years ago, has been the subject of many complaints by the entire community. Elise Sideris ’09, for example, recounted stories of difficulties she has had with getting CoursEnroll to properly enroll her in sections and labs attached to certain classes.

“It’s annoying,” she said, referring to CoursEnroll, “but I don’t see how they could make it any better.”

Perhaps directly in response to questions like that, a major part of the upgrade to the enrollment system will be automated section enrollment, which will automatically enroll students into the main lecture of a class if they choose a particular discussion section. Similarly, he said, the system will drop students from lecture if they drop the section.

“[For] example,” he said, “a course has one lecture, ten discussion sections. Every student should be enrolled in the lecture, but may choose a discussion. The student chooses discussion [section] 1 and will be automatically enrolled in lecture 1. If they drop discussion 1, they will automatically be dropped from lecture 1. We kind of do that now, but it is all manual and lots of work for the course administrators.”

Additionally, Yeh highlighted four other major improvements in the new system: course waitlists, dynamic dates, swap, and reserve capacity.

Course waitlists will allow students to request to be placed on a waitlist for full classes. The system will then automatically “promote” students off the wait list as seats become available. Yeh said this was one of the aspects of the system that the Registrar receives many complaints from students.

A third major improvement is “swap,” which Yeh described as a “very cool feature” that students have asked for in the past. Swap will allow students to swap a class from their schedule with another class without having to drop the class first. This system will check that seats are available in the new class before performing any action, prevent the current situation where students risk being locked out of their old class but unable to get into the new one, Yeh said.

With the addition of “dynamic dates,” the University will be able to set up different add/drop dates and rules and grading information for particular “special courses which do not fit the normal semester beginning and end parameters.”

The last item Yeh highlighted was the notion of “reserve capacity,” which he said has been a long-requested feature of faculty and administrators. This new feature will allow faculty and colleges to set aside a number of seats for particular types of students.

“For example,” Yeh said, “the capacity of [a] class is 20. [The system will allow] enrollment of ten students in the AEM major, then five Arts students, etc. This helps students who need certain courses to have better opportunity to be enrolled.”

Meanwhile, graduate and professional students began pre-enrolling for next semester on Oct. 16. The senior class’ window began this Monday, and will conclude today at 4:30 p.m., with the juniors following next Monday, sophomores the following week and finally freshmen on Nov. 13.

Labrini Godevas ’10, one of those freshman who have yet to experience pre-enrollment, said that she didn’t know exactly what to expect when her turn comes.

“All I know is that I have to log in and hope that I get through,” she said.

On the other end of the spectrum is Eric Arieter ’07, who recently went through his final, and surprisingly painless, pre-enrollment as an undergraduate.

“It was great,” he said, smiling. “I enrolled in like four minutes. No lag at all.”