A year after Yale denied students access to Yale BlueBook Plus, a student-made course selection website since renamed CourseTable, the Registrar’s Office is making changes to its own official system.
An email from University Registrar Gabriel G. Olszewski on Dec. 23 informed students that after considering student and faculty feedback, Online Course Selection would open on Jan. 7 — five days before the start of classes — allowing more time for students and faculty to determine demand for classes. OCS will now also restrict the number of courses that students can add to their provisional schedules to 10. At the same time, course demand statistics have been reformatted in an effort to make the website easier to use.
Further changes to the course selection process encouraged many departments to hold a pre-registration system, informing students of their status before Jan. 12.
“These changes will give students more information and more clarity about their role and responsibility in the course selection period,” Olszweski said.
However, despite the changes made by the Registrar’s Office, all 12 students interviewed said they do not feel more inclined to use OCS as a class search tool. Three said they had not even heard of the changes.
Agnes Galej ’17 said she does not like using OCS to explore the course offerings because the number of pop-up windows makes it difficult to navigate. She said operating the website was like an “exercise.”
Yale BlueBook is instead the primary resource for students “shopping” for courses, according to nine of the 12 students. The website was created by Jared Shenson ’12 and Charlie Croom ’12 in January 2012 and acquired by Yale at the end of that year. YBB was the first of a number of student-generated websites that retrieve course information, including student evaluations, from Yale’s official database and adapt it for student accessibility.
The second most popular choice for students interviewed was CourseTable, an online system that developed from the banned Yale BlueBook Plus and allows students to see the classes that registered Facebook friends are shopping.
Both of the websites also allow students to add an unlimited number of classes to their provisional schedule, compared to 10 on OCS.
Sarah DiMagno ’18 said the availability of course demand statistics helped her narrow down her course schedule, as it allowed her to work out which capped classes she was likely to get into, particularly as a freshman who has not yet declared a major. However, the availability of updated demand statistics does not necessarily fix the problem of oversubscribed classes, she said.
Lecturer on early childhood education, Erika Christakis, who is teaching a new seminar called “Concept of the Problem Child” this semester, said that predicting final enrollment for a small section is difficult during early stages of the semester, but that she is eager to ensure that all students interested in the topics are able to pursue them. On Monday, her class, which was originally intended to be a seminar of 20 students, had 135 students signed up on OCS.
“The challenge is how to meet students’ expressed need for courses while being true to the seminar learning format,” she said.
Nicholas Friedlander ’17, who said he was not aware of the OCS changes, said the changes will not improve the management of demand because many students may not be able to find out if they will actually be accepted into a course until the end of shopping period. On Monday, Friedlander said as an example, he shopped “Drugs, Brain and Behavior,” a popular science lecture capped at 165 students. However, 290 students showed up, he said.
“Yale students are often optimistic, and many will keep showing up to a class, even if the odds are against them,” he said.
Olszweski said the changes to OCS will likely remain in place. For potential future developments, the next step would be to develop a new online interface that might replace the paper-based components of the course selection process, notably the course schedule that must be signed by a student’s advisor, he said.
Friedlander — who said that he only uses OCS to print out his schedule for signing — said the number of options for course selection available to students means that changes to OCS may become redundant. If Yale streamlined the OCS system and combined it with the Bluebook, then students might start using it, he added.
Yale BlueBook Plus was banned on Jan. 13, 2014 on the grounds that it violated Yale’s data regulations.