New time ticket system for preregistration

The QCARD preregistration anxiety that annually plagues students may become a thing of the past by June.

To avoid the heavy traffic congestion experienced by QCARD users in years past, the University has decided to implement a new preregistration system for the 2006-07 academic year using “time tickets” and staggering users’ access times. As in previous years, the preregistration period will be divided by year of study, with incoming fourth-years receiving first priority and preregistering in the first week, followed by third-years, second-years, and an open week for all students.

The new system further divides the week segments into hour-long segments, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Each student will be randomly assigned a start time during their allotted week to choose courses.

John Pierce, associate dean of studies for the Faculty of Arts and Science, was a leading figure in orchestrating this system change.

“The fundamental goal of the new system is to ensure that no one gets bumped and no one gets delayed,” he said.

The system allows somewhere between 150 and 180 students per hour to preregister. Pierce said that this number was chosen because the system can handle as many as 300 students at once, and the University wants to ensure that students can access their courses without frustration.

Pierce added that while students are given a mandatory start time, but the time slot is not closed and they can access QCARD at any point beyond that time.

“Some other systems have a closed window,” he said. “Ours is trying a window system that stays open.”

Another feature of the system that is still being worked out is a “memory” feature. Pierce said while this feature doesn’t benefit incoming students this year, the purpose is to ensure that if a student is given a late preregistration time in one year, he or she will be given an earlier one the following year.

“If you ended up being in the last group in year two, you would be in the first group in year three,” he said.

“The thing I’m not positive about is the students in the middle. I’m not clear on the specific details.”

Pierce said the system wouldn’t be more costly than the one already in place, and that students would not feel any financial repercussions of the change.

“[These changes] are part of the regular investment the University makes every year to preregistration modifications,” he said. “It is a priority for the University and already budgeted within what we do.”

One major challenge preregistration faces this year is ensuring incoming fourth-year students don’t find the courses they need to graduate snapped up by students in other faculties with earlier time slots, Pierce said.

“What I asked departments to do is assess concentration requests,” he said. “They will ensure there are enough course spaces so everyone can get courses. We are rolling forward based on need assessed from last year.”

The registrar will allocate preregistration spaces based on the number of students currently registered in each department, Pierce said.

He said calling the departments during the summer to request admission to courses that filled during the preregistration period will not be an option for incoming fourth-year students. They will have to wait for the add-drop period.

“My instruction to departments was not to do that,” he said.

“The huge challenge is there are certain professors and subjects that are really attractive to students,” he said. “The fundamental rule we operate under is that students get the courses they need to graduate.”

First-year Arts and Science students will continue to use the SOAR program and are exempt from the new preregistration system. Pierce said SOAR is not a first-come, first-serve program.

“We guarantee that first-year students have access to all 100-level courses,” he said. “We sometimes add more sections if we see that there is enough demand.”

Students expressed mixed opinions regarding the new system.

Brad Swerdfeger, ArtSci ’07, said he likes the idea.

“In cognitive science, we have a lot of competition with psychology students to get into psychology courses,” he said. “[Time tickets] give me a better chance.”

Kellie Hodges, ArtSci ’07, said she thinks it is unfair for students from other faculties to have a chance at priority in selecting Arts and Science courses.

“I’m trying to do a double major [in politics and economics], so getting all the courses I need is hard,” she said.

“Doesn’t common sense dictate that Arts and Science students should have priority [in accessing] Arts and Science courses? I think the system is going to be a continuous work in progress.”

Pierce noted the system change was orchestrated by Arts and Science because it’s the faculty with the largest number of students.

“[Arts and Science as a faculty] puts the greatest strain on the computer systems,” he said. “We tried to come up with a solution for Arts and Science that did not disadvantage the other faculties.”

Pierce stressed he believes the new system will be successful in comparison to the current system.

“Preregistration is not the end,” he said. “The add/drop period is a new opportunity to pick up the course you wanted but couldn’t get. I do understand the stress—if people can live with those additional stresses, often they’ll get the courses they want. It’s another way to balance the system.”

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