Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Capturing the Wouldas
Wise and worldly readers -- especially those in enrollment management -- has anyone out there found a realistic and helpful way to track the “woulda” enrollments?
1. A student could waitlist at most one section of a given course. That is, if a student was waitlisted for one section of English 101, the student was not allowed to waitlist another section of English 101. Similarly, a student who was enrolled in English 101 could not waitlist a section of English 101 that the student perceived to be "better" in some way.
2. A student could waitlist at most two courses at any given time.
This is not to say that the registrar's crack team of software engineers did not create hilarious situations from time to time with the waitlists.
What we do is try to revise our schedules from time to time based on past data. The cost is running a trial section at a new time to see what happens. The management problem is separating cult of personality from time constraints, but I am told that you can see that happen in real time when registration opens.
After the first day of instruction, students can't add themselves into classes anymore. Dropped students automatically get replaced with students from the waitlist. If students want to add and are not on the waitlist, they have to get a permit number from the instructor (permit numbers are essentially override codes).
In especially impacted classes, the permit numbers are pretty precious information. I once heard of a student who was able to "steal" a permit number by looking through a grad student's papers while under the pretense of visiting office hours!
Seriously, though, over-booking has been a problem for any service that offers a fixed capacity on a fixed schedule, whether it's a flying tenement, an eleven bedroom sleeper, or Physics for Poets in a 500 seat lecture hall.
I've resorted, recently, to requesting a "Hold Further Enrollment" once my class fills, and maintaining my own waiting list. Of late, Northern Illinois has been slammed by the smaller flow of late adolescents leaving high school, and this dodge is purely theoretical. It worked well enough the few times I tried it.
When you were signing up for courses, you would submit via the online form the list of sections that you wanted to enroll in and a list of alternates that you would accept if your first choices were not available.
On some magically chosen day, the computer in the registrar's office would process all of these requests. Some courses had enrollment preferences based on "seniors first" or "declared majors first" or "freshmen first." Other courses had no such restrictions.
During the time between "submit your slate of courses day" and "enrollment matching day," the Powers That Be could determine to fuss with the course offerings so that they better matched student demand.
After the magic enrollment matching day, everything converted to first-come, first-served.
I am pretty sure that this was homebrew software, as the registrar had previously been faculty in the Operations Research / Industrial Engineering department.