As the frenzy of shopping period continues, the Yale College Registrar’s Office has issued a series of requests regarding the Online Course Selection system, seeking to ease the course selection process for both students and faculty.
The Registrar’s Office reminded students by email to enter a tentative list of at least three full-credit courses in OCS by the Tuesday before the start of classes and has sent repeated reminders for students to keep their OCS worksheets updated. As students and faculty often struggle to determine whether courses are oversubscribed or have available seats, compliance with these requests is intended to improve the accuracy of course demand statistics and reduce confusion, according to University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski. On Friday morning, 98 percent of students had entered at least three courses into their OCS worksheets, which opened earlier than in past years on Aug. 20.
“If students are more OCS-worksheet aware and aware of the implications of signals given to instructors or departments, then the whole community will have a better experience,” Olszewski said.
The new actions taken by the Registrar’s Office comprise part of the changes to shopping period voted in by the Yale College faculty in February 2013. Though the University anticipated last year that the new guidelines would be implemented this fall, the majority of these changes — shortening shopping period by setting the same due date for all course schedules and adding a five-day schedule amendment period — have not yet been introduced.
In order to shorten shopping period, Olszewski said, the University will need streamlined systems to allow the volume of students participating in course selection to move more quickly. These accommodations have yet to be fully developed, but the requests regarding OCS are a step in that direction, he added.
According to Olszewski, students seem to be complying with the requests to use OCS to actively maintain their worksheets and remove courses they are no longer considering in order to avoid artificially-inflated statistics. Compared to previous years, there are far fewer students with more than eight courses on their worksheets: The most number of courses one student has listed on OCS is 50, but in the past this number has reached 150, Olszewski said.
Olszewski said he has heard anecdotally that the numbers on course rosters for faculty — which are updated in real time based on students’ course selections on OCS — reflect the number of students who attend the actual class more accurately than in years past.
“The way so many students have been using OCS in the past — to continue the shopping metaphor — is, they’re walking down the aisle of a store and they’re dragging their cart behind them and throwing stuff into the basket,” Olszewski said.
Accurate data on course enrollment is crucial to course planning, particularly for large lecture courses like Michael Koelle’s “Principles of Biochemistry.” This year, Koelle said OCS informed him that he had 239 students shopping the course and roughly the same number of students showed up to the first class. Even though this number exceeded the capacity of the room and the number of teaching assistants assigned to the class, the OCS information allowed Koelle to find a larger classroom and recruit more teaching fellows immediately after the first day.
In addition to the emails and a welcome pop-up on OCS reminding students of the requests, the Registrar’s Office released a new interface for displaying course demand statistics last Wednesday. Previously the statistics were displayed in a frequently updated PDF, but now they are housed in a separate platform sorted by subject with drop-down menus. Olszewski said the new format is easier to use and understand and shows daily trends that students have requested.
Though more students have been following OCS guidelines, the majority of students interviewed reported that the shopping period experience has largely remained unchanged. In addition, many students expressed frustration that the final exam schedule — which is usually accessible through OCS — is not yet viewable through a course worksheet, which may complicate course planning.
“It’s been hectic, it feels more disorganized than it was last year,” said Lucia Baca ’17.
Course schedules are due at 5 p.m. on Sept. 8, 9 and 10 for the classes of 2018, 2017 and 2016 and 2015, respectively.