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Updates on preregistration for fall 2018

Topics/tags: Registration, Grinnell, rambly, long

I recently wrote about preregistration for fall 2018, identifying courses that were over-enrolled. At the time, I suggested that I might come back to the classes and see what departments did. Here goes. You can still look at the current registration data if you’d like. I’m looking at the data as of Friday, 4 May 2018.

I’m not sure that this musing will be quite as interesting to you, but I’d like to go through the exercise anyway.

  • AMS-305, Cultural Politics of Fashion was capped at 15 students and had 18. It now has 17. I expect that one student decided to take another class and Katya decided to allow the rest to stay.
  • Tess Kulstad’s Anthropology Special Topic on Health, Inequality, and Social Justice was over-enrolled by 9. It is now cut to its cap of 20.
  • One section of ART-111 was over-enrolled by six. It appears that those students got cut. I was worried that there would be no slots open for first-year students, but it appears that they were able to add another section of intro.
  • ART-134, Drawing, was over-enrolled by twenty-two students for a course that has a cap of 15 (and needs a cap of 15). Strangely, it is now down to ten students. I wonder if they made the decision to over-cut so that students could argue their way back in. But between the regular over-enrollments in Drawing and Introduction to the Studio, it feels like Studio Art needs a new position. I do see that a Mellon Postdoc (I think) allows them to add a new 100-level Film/Video Production course in the fall. I expect that will draw some of the students who were taking 111 or 134.
  • It looks like they were able to balance the two labs for Intro to Biological Chemistry.
  • It also looks like they were able to balance the five (!!) sections of BIO-251, Molecules, Cells, and Organisms. About 120 students are taking one of those five sections.
  • BIO-380, Molecular Biology was over-enrolled by eight students. That’s a class that’s almost impossible to expand. It looks like they had to cut the eight students; Bio has enough experience with cutting that class that I’m sure they figured out to minimize the damage to students.
  • The four sections of CHM-221, Organic Chemistry I, were over-enrolled by 28 students, with one section over-enrolled by 20 and one by
    1. As seems to be the norm for Chemistry, they’ve balanced the over-enrolled courses, but have not dropped any students. They did add another lab section and it looks like all of those are at a reasonable size. But between the four sections, we appear to have 123 students taking Organic. How much overlap is there with BIO-251? I’m not sure.
  • The one section of Physical Chemistry I was over-enrolled by nine students and is now over-enrolled by seven, putting it at 31 students. Given that they stayed over-enrolled, I’m assuming that some students decided to take another course. As I expected, they were able to add a third lab section so that those are at a reasonable size.
  • Monessa Cummins’ Classics/History 257, The Roman Republic, had 37 students. That’s usually where Monessa’s classes stand at the end of preregistration. She cut it down to 25. I still don’t see how she gives the amount of attention to students that she does with a class of 25.
  • Our two sections of CSC-207, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms were unbalanced, with one over-enrolled by 11 and the other with 9 slots available. I recall the registrar telling us that those would be hard to balance, but it appears they succeeded. Henry Walker’s section remains over-enrolled by 2 (26 students), but I’ve never known Henry to turn a student away.
  • We had a similar imbalance in CSC-211, Computer Organization and Architecture [1]. We also balanced those sections. The two section are now full. I’m glad we are able to serve all interested students. I remain worried about what will happen with CSC-213, Operating Systems, in the spring.
  • CSC 324, Software Design and Development was over-enrolled by six students. That was too many for a projects-based course with a new faculty member. We cut the ones who had another CS course, which isn’t ideal, but which seems fair in terms of distributing limited resources. Fortunately, we’re scheduled to have two sections in the spring.
  • Economics/Policy Studies 220, Foundations of Policy Analysis was over-enrolled by five. It is now slightly below cap. I expect that those departments are following the strategy that I attributed to Drawing: cut a few extra and let students petition to get back in.
  • ECN-240, Resource and Environmental Economics, remains over-enrolled by fourteen students. I’m not sure how Mark will teach all 39 students, but it seems like he’s going to try.
  • Section 2 of ECN-282, Macroeconomic Analysis_ was over-enrolled by five students with twelve slots available in section 1. I’m surprised to see that they only shifted five students, giving 18 in section 1 and 25 in section 2; CS would normally balance the two sections in that situation.
  • Unsurprisingly, ECN-327, Corporate Finance was over-enrolled by twelve students. I mentioned a lot of reasons in the prior musing. I forgot to mention that students also love Eric Orhn, who teaches the course. Eric left the course over-enrolled by 4, making it a large 300-level Econ course.
  • While I know that Ralph Savarese was thrilled at the number of students who wanted to learn to write poetry, he seems to have found a way to cut it down to the cap of 15, which is about all you can really teach when you pay close attention to writing. I hope some of the poetry students find a place in Craft of Creative Nonfiction, which is equally exciting.
  • English 224, Traditions of English Literature II was over-enrolled by four students. It’s now at capacity.
  • English 310, Studies in Shakespeare, was over-enrolled by eight students. That’s a challenge to deal with since it’s an upper-level seminar that students likely need and it’s not something that others can teach. I talked to John Garrison, who is teaching that seminar, and I know that his primary plan was to keep all seniors and let the juniors know that they’d have another opportunity next year. I assume that some of the students who were cut can take ENG_360, Seminar in Postcolonial Literature.
  • GDS-320, Applied Policy Analysis remained over-enrolled by three. Nineteen seems a bit big for that kind of project-based class, but Monty is also experienced at the class and can likely find a way to handle it.
  • I know that my newly-tenured colleague, Carolyn Herbst Lewis [2], agonized about cutting students. But I also know that there’s she should not have to deal with two over-enrolled 200-level courses. So both HIS-222, Women in American History, and HIS-223, Health and Medicine in American History, are at their cap of 25 [3].
  • It appears that Jennifer Paulhus was able to cut the two sections of Linear Algebra to their cap of 28 each. I know that Jen worked hard on that problem, contacting individual advisors to determine how the course fit in students’ plans [4].
  • It appears that they had to cut four students from MAT-321, Foundations of Abstract Algebra. I assume those students will generally move to Foundations of Analysis, which has room.
  • Music 120-01, Performance: Violin, remains over-enrolled by four students. In contrast, a number of students in Lisa Henderson’s 120-02, Performance: Voice, seems to have been shifted to another section of Voice. What about the music performance classes? I was told that if you didn’t preregister, you might not get in. But I see that many of them are listed as open [5]
  • Johanna Meehan cut her Philosophy / Political Science special topics course on Reading Arendt to its cap of 20. I wonder how she chose who to cut.
  • POL-257, Nationalism, is now at its cap of 25 [7]. I assume the students who were cut will switch to another Political Science class, but POL-251, International Political Economy, appears to be the only other 200-level class that’s still open. It may be that PoliSci, as another department with a high student-to-faculty ratio, makes similar resource decisions that we make in CS [8]. makes similar decisions to CS. Science classes.
  • PST-320, Applied Policy Analysis, remains over-enrolled by three. I was going to say Doug probably needs to let all the Policy Studies concentrators stay in. Then I realized that it has the same title as GDS-320. Then I realized that Doug and Monty are co-teaching the course [9]. But 19 is still a lot for an upper-level, project-based course.
  • SOC-265, Sociology of Health and Illness, is now over-enrolled by only two, rather than fifteen. I’m not sure how Susan makes the decisions on who to cut. At least there are a few really awesome 200-level Soc courses still available, including Ross Heanfler’s Deviance and Social Control, Kesho Scott’s Race and Ethnicity in America, and a special topic on Environmental Sociology [10].
  • The Sociology special topics on Mass Media and Society is now at capacity. As I mentioned, there are a variety of cool Soc courses available.
  • In my prior musing, I had missed that Chris Hunter’s SOC-350, NGOs: Organizing to Do Good [11], was over-enrolled by two. It’s nice to see that Chris left everyone in that seminar.
  • SPN-312, Women and Gender in Spanish Literature, was over-enrolled by fifteen students. There are now two sections. I’m surprised to see that they cut the five-person Culture of the Spanish-Speaking World for that to happen. I don’t know the Spanish department pressures well enough, but it strikes me that I’d look to compress at the 100 level in this case [12].
  • The two sections of SST-125, Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, are now balanced.
  • The two sections of STA-310, Statistical Modeling, are now balanced. So the afternoon issue was not as much of a problem as I predicted. It appears that a few students were cut along the way.

Is this all that happened in the week since preregistration ended? No. I’m pretty sure that a few low-enrollment courses got cut completely. I don’t know what got added in their stead [14]. There are courses that were not over-enrolled that were nonetheless balanced. Amazingly, it’s better for everyone, both faculty and students, if there are two moderate-sized sections rather than one small and one large. And I know that some students got cut from classes to ensure that there’s room for incoming first-year students. We certainly cut a few from CSC-151. I know other departments that cut students from 100-level classes, too. And then there are the disciplines, like GWSS and Linguistics, that don’t even allow 3rd-years and seniors into their 100-level classes until after first-years register. I keep wondering whether we should have more uniform approaches to reserving spots for first-year students. Is it better to allow students in and then cut them, or not to allow them in the first place? That seems worthy of a more general discussion.

As I reflect on the cuts that were made, I find myself wondering how departments make decisions on cutting. I wonder whether we’d find it useful to have a discussion as faculty about how you make the hard decisions as to who to cut from a course. What factors go into play? I expect that we could learn a bit from each other. The question of when you decide to allow courses to over-enroll would be a more difficult one. Why is it, for example, that Chemistry is regularly willing to allow courses to significantly over-enroll [15]? And do we have common mechanisms for determining the normal cap on courses? If we don’t, should we?

That’s getting a bit controversial, so let’s switch back to the data. I see that the Registrar’s office has marked classes with only one or two remaining slots as Closed. Such classes aren’t really closed, per se, but require an instructor’s signature to add. When classes are close to capacity, we need a little bit of control as to who we add. For example, if a student has been cut from another class in the department, we probably want to give them priority to add a course. Closing it gives us that option.

Speaking of Closed, it may be useful to consider how our classes stand right now. Let’s see … 148 courses are marked as Closed. That includes a bunch of music lessons that I’m too lazy to count. 35 courses are marked as Balanced. Those are courses that students can still add, but need an instructor’s permission to do so [16]. And there are 390 courses that are marked as Open. Of course, that includes music lessons and PE courses. There are 121 performance courses and 23 PE courses. I’m not sure how many of those are open or closed. I need the data in a better form to do a more careful analysis.

I do this analysis, in part, so that I can better support my students [17]. What do I need to do for my advisees? Unfortunately, our system does not send out automatic messages when students are dropped from courses or switched to other sections or otherwise have their schedules changed. I expect that most of them will let me know if they observe problems. So far, I’ve heard from three: One was dropped from a 100-level class. I told them to contact the department chair. Two were switched to a different section of the same course. I told them that I supported the idea of balancing courses but would advocate for them if they had a good reason that they needed the other section.

I’m still waiting to hear whether my students who want Linguistics will be able to take Linguistics and whether my students who want to take GWSS will be able to take GWSS. Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to wait until fall to resolve that.

If I were teaching Tutorial in the fall, I might count open slots in introductory courses. But I’m not. And it’s late. Perhaps that will be a topic for another musing [18].

[1] At some point, I wrote Computing Organization and Architecture. You think that I’d get the name of courses in our department correct!

[2] Congratulations Carolyn!

[3] I’m never sure why people choose a cap of 25 rather than 24. I really like 24 as a class size, since you can break it into so many different combinations: twelve groups of two, six groups of four, eight groups of three, and so on and so forth.

[4] Thanks, Jen, for going over and above the call of duty.

[5] I’m really interested to see how our new everyone gets one performance course [6] per semester without additional charge policy affects enrollment in these performance courses. I hope that we’ll see most students choosing to take lessons each semester.

[6] That is, music lessons.

[7] There’s another one of those 25-people class. I don’t get it.

[8] That is, because we have limited resources, people who enroll in high-demand courses may get cut if they are in another course in the department.

[9] From my experience, co-teaching a course does not significantly decrease the workload, and sometimes increases it. Now, in addition to designing assignments and teaching class, you must also find time to meet with your co-instructor and you must often learn a new subject area along the way. Few co-taught classes seem to split grading; instead, students tend to get more feedback.

[10] There are other cool 200-level SOC courses open; those are just some that stood out.

[11] Back when I was a graduate student, it took me a long time to figure out that NGO stood for Non-Governmental Organization.

[12] Of course, I also know that it’s hard to argue that you should offer a course with under six students. Most of the 200- and 300-level courses with fewer than six students get cut.

[14] If I were Dean, what would I do? That’s a hard call. If there weren’t over-enrolled courses elsewhere in the department, I’d probably ask the instructors of cut courses to consider Tutorial in the fall. That seems to be the most sensible common currency. I have less of a sense as to what I’d do in the spring.

[15] I also used to allow my CS courses to over-enroll. Then I had a full semester that felt like week 14.

[16] If we didn’t have that policy, students who had been balanced would just switch back to the other section, eliminating the benefits of balancing the sections.

[17] Okay, most of it is that I enjoy looking at the numbers. But it’s also to help my advisees.

[18] That refers to the number of slots in introductory courses, not the lateness of the evening.

Version 1.0 released 2018-05-04.

Version 1.0.1 of 2019-11-17.