September 7, 2007

Cornell to Replace CoursEnroll Next Term

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“Any person… any study.”

The plethora of classes Cornell offers may hold true to Ezra Cornell’s founding vision, but enrolling in those classes is sometimes easier said than done. Even if students are able to pre-register for a class during CoursEnroll, they are not guaranteed enrollment.

According to David Yeh, vice president of student and academic services, “CoursEnroll as it is now is not one’s schedule. It is one’s preferences and requests.”

This may come as a surprise to students. Jen Fishkin ’10 was stunned to find that her schedule had changed over the summer when she tried to add a class during Add/Drop before classes started. [img_assist|nid=24205|title=Enrollment|desc=Just the Facts, pictured above, lists a student’s class schedule, but does not necessarily correspond to their selections during CoursEnroll.|link=node|align=right|width=336|height=240]

“During CoursEnroll last spring, I woke up at 6 a.m. and entered all my information right away. I had heard great things about employment and labor law Prof. Risa Lieberwitz and I really wanted to get into her class, and I was excited when I got in,” she said. “But when I went to add Psych 101 this summer, it said I had a scheduling conflict and I saw that I had been switched into a different section with a different teacher.”

Departments often leave classes open for pre-registration so that they can gauge student interest. Depending on the number of students who do pre-register, a department may choose to add more sections or find a more accommodating classroom.

“It’s one of the limitations of the current system. Let’s say a class has a cap of 150 students. Then the department doesn’t know that they may have 50 more students interested,” Yeh said.

Some departments may forgo a setting a cap on certain classes in high demand in order to ensure that the people who need to take the class are able to.

“I don’t put a cap on [Comm 263] because if I did that then there would be 10 or 15 CALS students who couldn’t graduate because they couldn’t get into the course,” explained Prof. Linda Post Van Buskirk, communication. “It’s a required class for many CALS students and a requirement in the communication major. It’s very difficult and I don’t like to turn students away, and I have struggled to find a way to do it.”

Because class lists are commonly altered after the pre-registration period, students are encouraged to list alternatives for their classes during CoursEnroll, an option many students are unaware of.

“I didn’t know that existed,” said Matthew Nastos ’10.

However, despite the limitations of the current system, administrators and students alike acknowledge that it is usually possible to find a schedule that does work for them.

“It’s very disappointing for a student to think they have the perfect schedule and then see it has changed,” Yeh said. “The faculty are very open to speaking with students about attending a class and that is why we have Add/Drop. I am happy to speak with those students to find out what happened and I would be surprised if someone could not develop the appropriate course schedule.”

Fishkin agreed, “In the end, it all worked out — it was just a big headache.”

A new CoursEnroll system addresses several of the issues students face with pre-registration. Peoplesoft will replace the current system, Student Information System (SIS), beginning in March 2008 for pre-enrollment for the Fall 2008 semester and will include a wish list and a waitlist.

“We want to take the guess work out. With the wish list and waitlist, the system can be much more dynamic and can accommodate students better,” Yeh said. “Both of the new features will allow departments to know what size classroom and how many sections are appropriate and it will address one of the biggest complaints, which is that students get blocked out.”

In the future, Peoplesoft will also allow students to plan out possible classes for future semesters and will include a “degree audit” system that keeps track of what major and distribution requirements students have filled and have left to fill.

The University partnered with six other schools across the country, including the University of Michigan and James Madison University, to develop the new system.

The previous system, SIS, was developed predominantly by Cornell grads in the late ’80s and ’90s, and was, at the time, on the leading edge of technology.

“It’s been very exciting. I’ve seen us move from paper to a lot more technology based. In 1987, there were 500 computers on campus. Within five years, the number was in the thousands,” Yeh said.