Departments shifting to online section selection

Though department buildings have been overwhelmed with students waiting for section signups to begin in past years, more Yale departments are now transitioning to online section selection processes.

The system, pioneered by the Economics Department in fall 2010 and designed by Yale’s Information Technology Services, allows students to view a list of possible section times and rank their preferences through the University’s online course selection. Many of Yale’s departments, including English, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology, now use the online option — eliminating the long lines that students once endured while waiting to select class times.

Economics professor Sigridur Benediktsdottir GRD ’05, who monitors the online selection process for the Economics Department, said the new system is being used for her department’s larger lectures and has helped accommodate student needs.

“We get to see where the demand is coming from,” Benediktsdottir said. “If one year students want a 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. section, we can meet the demand.”

The online preference selection tool allows students to rank a predetermined number of sections during an open window, but does not take the order of student registration into account when determining section assignments. Students can then return to the portal and change their rankings freely until the selection time period closes. The program allows departments to view how many students have ranked each section time, and sections can then be added or removed accordingly.

Benediktsdottir said that before the new system was implemented two years ago, the Economics Department often ran into scheduling problems because certain sections would have more demand than expected. The online system is still developing, she added, and the department is satisfied with it so far.

Qazi Azam ’91, the undergraduate registrar for the Economics Department, said shopping period used to be disorganized and tedious for him before the online registration process was created.

“Students were lined up from [28 Hillhouse Ave.] to the street before 8 a.m. waiting to sign up for a section,” he said. “They stood there in the rain, snow and cold.”

Other departments at Yale are also moving away from paper signups. The Mathematics Department replaced the pen-and-paper method with the online approach for its large classes last fall.

Fourteen students interviewed expressed mixed feelings about online section selection.

Marisol Dahl ’15, who was admitted to the popular “Introductory Macroeconomics” seminar, said that while not all students get their first choices, the online section selection is “as fair as it can be.”

Other students, however, claim the online system can disadvantage students willing to put more effort toward getting into a specific section.

“Students with a higher demand for a section should be able to choose to wake up earlier,” Peter Xu ’14 said.

Xiyu Wang ’15 said while the online system is fair, she would like to see students particularly interested in a major be given priority in section assignments.

Students not admitted to their preferred section through the online selection process can monitor Yale’s online course selection for openings.

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