The automated wait list: How does it work?

waitlistThe automated waitlist was implemented last spring during fall class registration because before, there was no “universal way for faculty to maintain a waitlist for their courses,” according to One Stop assistant registrar Michelle Foulger.

Prior to the launching of the automated system, academic departments and professors were responsible to maintain their own waitlists and facilitate students’ questions and concerns regarding class availability.

Students interested in closed classes would have to individually email the instructor to request a class permission code. The professor would then contact One Stop and approve the student’s request before the student would have to go to that office to be officially enrolled in the course.

Foulger and One Stop Communications Coordinator Christine Peterson explained that the automated system is becoming an educational standard, as most higher-education institutions have adopted similar programs.

Foulger explained the impact this simple change has had on One Stop. The office no longer gives generalized tips about how to get into a closed class, but now has a concrete way to explain to students the steps to take to enroll in a closed class.

Sophomore accounting major Ryan Anema said she understands that the automated waitlist system is a fair and simple way to get needed classes, but she personally stays away from wait-listed classes.

“I don’t want uncertainty in my schedule,” Anema said. “I would rather sign up for a class and know I am going to get it.”

The current registration process is based on students’ unit count. Students with more completed units register first, while also gaining access to waitlists before students who have not yet registered.

“Students need to take advantage of their registration time, have their holds removed and have their petitions in place,” Foulger said. “If you wait a couple days, you are giving up your priority registration.”

There are certain criteria that a wait-listed student must meet in order to enroll for a class once a spot has opened. The student must be eligible for the total unit amount, have no registration holds, not be enrolled in a different section of the same course or have any other scheduling conflicts.

One Stop recognizes that students may wish to register for courses just in case they might not be able to enroll in their desired classes.If the system is not utilized properly, students on the waitlist may be overlooked due to a time, section or course conflict with an already-enrolled class. When in doubt, swap, Foulger said.

The swap feature allows a student to enroll for a course with the option to automatically drop the class when a spot for the wait-listed class opens.

There is never a guarantee that a closed class will open, but when a student utilizes the swap feature, the system will never overlook the student due to a time or course conflict with the swapped course. Peterson explains that students must first enroll for their “just-in-case” class, then use swap to wait-list the desired class.

“There is a standard process, but it is not followed by every professor the same way,” said junior accounting major Claire Bultema.

One Stop works closely with different educational departments when handling and finalizing class schedules.

Departments have the authority to monitor their waitlists while still having the option of issuing students permission codes. They also have the ability to add students to their total class enrollment up to a certain limit, said Foulger and Peterson.

“I enjoy the system,” said communication studies assistant professor Karen Sorensen-Lang. “It is better like it is, but I still feel like I’m probably not using it to its full extent.”

One Stop recommends professors expand their class enrollments by working with the office to increase the course’s student limit instead of using permission codes. In doing so, the system is now able to place students according to the new student limit.

For example, giving a student a permission code enables the student to join the class, but if another student drops the course, the spot would not be filled by a student actually on the waitlist.

One Stop is currently looking to utilize the received statistics from the registration website to help inform academic departments and track student interest in specific courses, according to Peterson.

Although professors and departments do have some authority to expand different class enrollments, there are limitations, and certain factors must first be considered, Foulger said.

Some of the factors include, but are not limited to, course curriculum, facility limit, faculty contracts, department budgets and pedagogy, which is the way the class is taught.

Registering students must consider how many units they want to take in the upcoming semester. The system does not recognize wait-listed units toward the enrolled units of a full-time student, which is 12-18, Peterson said.

If a student needs or wants to take more than 18 units, a petition must be submitted prior to registration to either avoid the waitlist system completely or allow the program to enroll the student without the unit limitation when a spot opens.

To help students avoid this limitation, One Stop has moved up the petition submission date to minimize as many holds as possible and allow student to enroll in their desired course prior to the end of the add/drop period.

Foulger said that whether or not there may be petitions or account holds, students should place themselves on the waitlist for a good spot, then wait for an approval.

“We don’t hear a lot about [the new waitlist system] and, hopefully, that means people are using it and it’s working,” Peterson said. “We do tend to hear about it when people don’t like it, so I think the fact that we are not hearing a lot means that people are OK with it.”

The waitlist system runs only once a day, Peterson said. Each time a person drops, the system starts from the top and filters through until a student who meets the requirements is placed. A student can never move down on the waitlist.

Foreign language and science classes require both a lecture and lab. The waitlist system recognizes a lecture and lab as one course, and therefore students need to either enroll or wait-list for both.

“It can be a complicated process,” Peterson said. “We are always happy to take questions and help people through these processes.”