The truth about Course Request

Each semester, students must navigate the mysterious labyrinth of Web Course Request. Unsurprisingly, there are many myths bouncing around campus about class registration and how students are funneled into each class.

The Collegiate Times asked students for their questions about Course Request in an attempt to debunk the myths and provide answers. Wanda Dean, the university registrar and vice president for enrollment and degree management, shed light on the truths behind the misconstrued topic.

IT MATTERS HOW SOON YOU SUBMIT YOUR CLASSES WHEN COURSE REQUEST OPENS

Myth: That’s not true, but stuents shouldn’t wait until the last minute because they might have problems. To register, students have to complete certain registration policy questions. Sometimes HokieSpa asks students to update emergency contact information and local addresses, or to acknowledge changes in the student conduct policy. Students shouldn’t wait until three minutes before midnight on the last day, or they may not be able to get in because it’s too close to being past the time. But there’s no advantage to doing it the first day versus the seventh day.

A COMPUTER PROGRAM PLACES STUDENTS INTO THEIR COURSES

Fact: The registrar’s office uses a scheduling program reffered to as the scheduler. The program takes all of the information it receives and follows the hierarchy rules. For example, it creates seniors’ schedules before it creates juniors’ scedules. So if a junior is asking for the same thing as a senior, the senior will have the chance to get it before the junior. It is very complex because of the number of students, conflicting times and prerequisites. However, the scheduler’s algorithm is “optimizing,” meaning it tries to place students into the course they’ve asked for before placing them in the class time they requested.

HONORS STUDENTS AND ATHLETES GET PRIORITY IN OBTAINING THEIR COURSES

Fact: There is a heirarchy in the system. First are students with disabilities. Second are students who are participating in a sport that semester — not all the athletes but just the those who are participating that semester. Then it’s honors students and then seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

Dean often hears complaints from seniors who say they didn’t get several of the classes they requested, but she said each senior is competing with all of the other seniors. For majors with a high amount of seniors who are seeking the same course, it can be difficult to get all the students in the course. It’s not a given that seniors will get everything they ask for through the scheduler. 

COURSE REQUEST ISN’T THAT IMPORTANT BECAUSE STUDENTS CAN ALWAYS FALL BACK ON DROP/ADD

Myth: Course Request is vey helpful to departments that must decide how many sections of a class to provide, because it gives them information about the demand for certain sections. The departments can then try to add sections if classes are in high demand, increasing the chance that students will get the courses they want. If you wait until Drop/Add to try and construct your schedule, you are limited to the “leftovers.” 

STUDENTS RARELY GET THE CLASSES THEY REQUEST 

Depends: Out of the 23,743 students who participated in Course Request for Spring 2012, 50 percent will get everything they’ve asked for. About 75 percent will end up only one class short of their desired schedule. 

The scheduling program is designed to honor students’ requests, meaning it prioritizes placing students in a course before placing them in their preffered class time. 

The goal of the scheduler is to give you a complete schedule. For example, if the class a student requests is full or conflicts with something else, the scheduler is going to move them to the very same class at a different time. That is how students sometimes get the course they asked for but maybe not at the time they asked for. The goal is to get you into the class.

IF YOU REQUEST MORE CLASSES, YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF GETTING THE ONES YOU WANT

Myth: HokieSpa won’t let student’s overload classes, or take more than 19 credits in a semester or seven in a summer session. And requesting more classes will not give students a better chance because the program simply runs on an algorithm, and students are competing with other students.

INFORMATION SUBMITTED FOR COURSE REQUEST GOES INTO SOME VOID AND POPS BACK OUT IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS

Fact: As soon as Course Request week is over (this semester it ended on Oct. 25) the information registrar’s office runs all the information through the scheduler. 

When that is complete, the office has preliminary schedules for all students and sends the results out to departments. Individual departments are given several weeks to look over the results, which show the demand for each course and how they can respond to that demand. 

If there are far more requests for a class than there are seats, departments may try to create more class sections if it has the resources. Departments can then send the information registrar requests back to add sections to the timetable. 

Once the timetable is adjusted, all requests are run through the scheduler again, creating the schedules students actually see.