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Process to add classes changes

By Molly Chiu     8/31/11 7:00pm

The days of constantly checking for open spaces in a class may soon be over.

This year, the registrar is starting a system which will allow students to sign up on a waitlist for a class that is already full. The system is currently being tried in several courses, including ENGL 200: Critical Reading and Writing and PSYC 101: Introduction to Psychology University Registrar David Tenney said.

Students may get on a waitlist by visiting the registration page on ESTHER. When a student tries to register for a course that is full, the waitlist option will appear if it is available for that course. Waitlists have a capacity limit so students may end up waiting to get on a waitlist for popular classes.

Once on the waitlist, students will be placed in classes on a first come, first served basis. The student at the top of the waitlist will be notified by email when someone drops the course and a space becomes available. The student will then have 24 hours to register for that course. If they don't register within those 24 hours, they will be removed from the waitlist, and the next person in line will receive a chance to register. Students can check their status on the waitlist on ESTHER.

The waitlist feature became available this year, and after discussing the system with the University of Oregon and Purdue University, both of whom already use the system, the registrar's office decided to begin limited testing this fall. Tenney said that he is excited about the possibilities of the waitlist system.

"I like the fact that it brings more equity to the process," Tenney (Sid Rich '87) said. "We can also begin to measure demand for a course. When the waitlist is full, it signals to the department and the administration that this is a popular and needed course and perhaps the university should offer more sections of the course."

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he feels the waitlist system will also be useful for both students as well as faculty as they try to determine the popularity of a class.

"It will make it easier for students to assess how likely it will be that they can join a limited enrollment class, by knowing how many other students are ahead of them in line for the class," Hutchinson said. "And it will help faculty know how many students would like to join their class and provide a means to regulate the size of their class."

English class ENGL 321: Early Shakespeare was chosen for the trial time period using the waitlist.

"I actually noticed very little difference this semester," English Professor Joseph Campana said. "The cap on my class went up after the initial wave of registration and probably absorbed anyone waiting. Some courses might need to be exempted from the system, like creative courses or some advanced seminars in my department."

Tenney said that his office will be setting up a faculty focus group and working with the Student Association to set up a student focus group to gather opinions and concerns about the waitlists.

So far Tenney has heard positive feedback.

"I've been very pleased with how it's working," Tenney said. "Many faculty members have approached me and want to participate in the spring."

Registration for the fall semester ends at midnight tonight but the waitlists will return in November for spring registration.

"We are looking into waitlists as a way to improve, especially now that we have more students on campus and more demand for courses," Tenney said.

Brown College sophomore and Peer Academic Advisor Elizabeth Pogue said that she thinks the waitlists will be a comfort to students and will make registering for classes easier.

"With the freshmen class being so big, wait-lists at least offer some hope for getting into courses," Pogue said. "It's especially consoling when you think of how nerve-racking not getting into a class freshman year is."

For more information on how to get on a waitlist and the complete list of courses that currently have waitlists, visit http://registrar.rice.edu.

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