For the first time in recent memory, students were required to add courses to their personal Online Course Selection worksheets prior to the beginning of classes — a change that many agreed improved shopping period logistics.
In an effort to boost the quality of OCS course demand statistics, Yale mandated that students enter at least three course credits on their schedule worksheet before the first day of class. Nearly all students — 99.2 percent, to be exact — did so, and those who did not were charged a $50 fine.
According to University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski, the policy improved the accuracy of course demand statistics, adding that he hopes to continue the requirement next semester. Although most of the professors and students interviewed did not notice much change in shopping period behaviors as a result of the initiative, many believed that requiring students to add at least three classes so early on made planning easier amid shopping uncertainty.
“I’m myself awfully grateful for the introduction of the new requirement,” English professor Leslie Brisman, who teaches the popular seminar “The Bible as Literature,” said in an email. “Anything that gets students seriously planning before the first day of classes is a boon, and if even one student was able to get to work in courses earlier because of this requirement, then it is well worth the effort required of all.”
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque said that as a result of the new requirement, instructors teaching lecture courses found their initial class rosters to be more reliable in predicting actual enrollment than in years past. Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Michael Koelle said the statistics were very helpful in determining the enrollment cap for his large biochemistry lecture class, in addition to finding an appropriate classroom and hiring enough teaching fellows.
Although acknowledging that the new policy has improved the reliability of course demand data, some professors said they depended on shoppers rather than statistics to gauge interest. In their view, the new policy did not make a noticeable impact on shopping period logistics.
Still, professors interviewed suggested that they did not see a dramatic shift in how students went about shopping classes.
“There’s a lot of other stuff that’s going on besides the policies,” said Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor Stephen Stearns ’67.
Stearns said he found that despite the OCS requirement, shopping period was still characterized by significant uncertainty on both the part of the instructor and the student. He further noted that his “Evolution and Medicine” class was initially very oversubscribed, and he was only able to reduce enrollment by articulating his own metrics for finalizing the class roster. Even so, Stearns decided to create another section to accommodate all the interest.
Though Brisman praised the requirement because it forced students to plan their schedules earlier than before, he also noted that it did not lead to major changes in shopping behavior. Despite the fact that students were required to submit preliminary course credits, Brisman found that the majority of shoppers in his seminar came to class unprepared, without having read the syllabus or even the full course description on Classes*v2.
“There are still too many students who haven’t done their homework before the start of classes and who therefore make it difficult for both professors and more responsible students to get to work right away,” Brisman said. “There is still some expectation that the classes that take place the first few weeks aren’t ‘for real.’”
Compared to the faculty, students had more mixed opinions about the changes made to the course registration process. Of 22 students interviewed, 14 said that they used the course demand statistics while they were shopping classes.
For many students, the main benefit of the new requirement was that course demand statistics were accurate earlier during shopping period, serving as a valuable resource as they decided which classes to add to their schedules.
“I think [this policy] makes a big difference,” Irene Chung ’17 said. “I look at [the course demand statistics] when deciding which seminars to go to, when debating between two [classes], just to gauge the likelihood.”
She added that the requirement is a low commitment that all students can do to help everyone. Isra Syed ’16, who usually plans her classes before school starts, found the new policy extremely helpful. Having everyone submit a preliminary schedule helped her plan her shopping period beforehand, Syed said.
Other students, however, found that the pressure to submit three classes before the start of the term had the potential to create more stress than it eased. This was especially an issue for many freshmen, who were just trying to navigate the process of shopping period for the first time.
Trinh Truong ’19 said that she knew many of her peers who were stressed and confused by the requirement to submit three classes online before the first day of classes.
“I didn’t really know how to use the Bluebook or anything until my FroCo was like, ‘here’s how you do it,’” she said.