In another step towards integrating technology into student life, Yale is experimenting with moving course registration online.

A pilot program, being conducted in Branford and Timothy Dwight colleges this semester, allows students both to pick courses and to register for them on the online course information Web site. If the pilot is successful, the registrar’s office will expand the program to all of Yale College.

The program is available through the Web site for students in Branford and TD. Although the online registration program is not entirely paperless, it is intended to speed up the process of registration so that faculty can obtain their class lists earlier, a problem many frequently complained of in the past.

“Usually lists go out very late — six to seven weeks into the semester,” said Registrar Barry S. Kane, who is overseeing the pilot. “But with this program professors can have their class lists three or four days after shopping period ends.”

To register, students first log in, search for the courses they want by days and times, and then complete a tentative schedule. To improve accuracy, students click on classes instead of typing them in, and the program notifies a user if he or she has made a mistake. For instance, if a student selects the Cr/D/F option for a class that does not offer it, the program gives an error message.

“The nature of selecting the courses through point and click and pull down menus greatly reduces a user’s chances of making an error,” Kane said. “In the past, there were 50 to 60 errors per semester which sometimes were not caught until the end of the semester. Most errors involved students entering the wrong five-digit course numbers, which can be avoided now.”

Once students have created their tentative course schedule they must print it out and have it approved by their faculty advisors before turning it into their dean’s office. Only those schedules containing changes made by an advisor are sent to the Registrar’s Office for corrections; all others are processed through the system. As a result, the Registrar’s Office receives far fewer forms and the registration process is accelerated.

Another benefit of online registration is the program’s distribution requirement checking system. Upperclassmen will no longer have to worry about whether or not they have met their distribution requirements and can avoid having to meet with deans and advisors over the issue because the program automatically updates them. When users need to know if they are successfully fulfilling the requirements, the system can inform them.

Beginning next week, once shopping period has ended and students have turned in their schedules, Information Technology Services and the Registrar’s Office will begin collecting feedback on the program from students and faculty. The Yale Law School has been using a similar program for several semesters now with few problems, so administrators expect that this one will run smoothly as well.

“They’re just clicking so we think there will be few mistakes or problems,” said Jill Carlton, director of Student Information Technology Services. “It’s truly a pilot, and we want to have feedback. It’s our hope that we’ll go with the full Yale College for the spring.”

One student who will be using the program to register next week said he looked forward to using it.

“I haven’t had too many problems with getting class info online or using the classes server,” said Frank Chen ’03 of Branford College. “I haven’t taken a look at the program yet but it sounds like it will be relatively simple. If it makes my life easier, then I can’t complain.”