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Reflections on preregistration data for spring 2019

Topics/tags: Registration, Grinnell, rambly, long, unedited

Throughout preregistration period, I keep track of the status of Grinnell’s course offerings. In part, I do so to help with my work: It’s useful to know what the pressure points in CS will be [1,2] and, as an advisor, I want to be able to warn my advisees about courses that will likely over-fill [3]. Plus, I’m a bit of a data junkie.

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to muse about the preregistration data on the last night of preregistration. So, let’s see where things stand.

This year, I realized that I could use Google Sheets to help me track the data. I started with a sheet with the following command in the cell A1.

=IMPORTHTML("", "table", 1)

Since that table lacks a current enrollment column and also combines slots available and capacity into a single cell, I added new columns. Column’s K and L have available and capacity, and get created by using something like =SPLIT(H2,"/"). Column M, enrollment, is just the result of subtracting column K from column L. Now I can explore the data in new ways, such as sorting by enrollment or available slots [4].

Wednesday morning, before I created the spreadsheet, I looked for the classes with the largest enrollments. Those were as follows:

  • ECN-111-04, Introduction to Economics: 42 enrolled, capacity of 26. Intro Econ has five sections, so that’s not so troublesome.
  • CSC-151-01, Functional Problem Solving w/lab: 39 enrolled, capacity of 32 We have one other section. That’s a bit troublesome.
  • ART-111-02, Introduction to the Studio: 37 enrolled, capacity of 15. There’s one other section, already full. This is very troublesome.
  • BIO-150-02, Intro to Biological Inqry w/ lab: 37 enrolled, capacity of 24 There are other sections.
  • LIN-114-01, Intro to General Linguistics: 36 enrolled, capacity of 25. Of course, that course does not allow juniors and seniors to preregister, so it would probably be far at the top if it did.

At the end of preregistration, the classes with the highest enrollments were as follows.

  • MUS-120-04, Performance: Voice. 57 enrolled, capacity of 22. I assume that Music has a way to handle this much demand, but I’m not sure. The high enrollment seems like a natural consequence of Grinnell’s every student has music lessons included in their tuition. But we have a variety of voice instructors, and it doesn’t look like 200-level voice is over-enrolled, so I’ll cross my fingers that these high enrollments are a positive, rather than a challenge.
  • ART-111-02, Introduction to the Studio. 56 enrolled, capacity of 15. ART-111 is always over-enrolled, but rarely by this much. More on Studio Art will follow in the general comments.
  • CSC-151-01, Functional Problem Solving. 53 enrolled, capacity of 32. I’m number three! But I guess that’s not a good thing; I don’t like cutting students from my classes. My quick analysis suggests that if we cut all non-first-year students from CSC 151 and balance the two sections, we’ll only be over-enrolled by one [6]. I’d like every interested student to be able to take intro CS, but that’s not going to happen this year. Maybe some can take CSC-105.
  • ECN-111-04, Introduction to Economics. 51 enrolled, capacity of 26. Fortunately, there are five sections of Intro Econ, so balancing should work. If I calculate correctly, the five sections will have an average enrollment of 19 students.
  • ENV-145-01, Nations and the Global Environment, 51 enrolled, capacity of 50.

The spreadsheet has made a big difference in one way; in most years, I don’t look at the music practica or ensembles, and so don’t include them in my reflections. This year, they appear in my spreadsheet, so they enter my consciousness. I see that MUS-101-06, Grinnell Symphony Orchestra, orchestra has 48 and that MUS-120-92, Perf: Piano has 45.

What about over-enrolled classes? ART-111-02 is number one, with 41 more students than slots. Voice is number two, with 35 more students than slots. ART-134-01 is number three, with 32 more students than slots. ECN-111-04 is number four, with twenty-five too many students, and STA-209-03 [7] has twenty-two too many students.

Studio Art always over-enrolls. But I’m pretty sure that it’s worse this year than it’s been in the past [8]. If we include the over-enrollment by eight in ART-111-01, Art has enough extra demand to support five additional sections of 100-level classes. And that doesn’t even include the over-enrollment by eight in the special topic on Contemporary Photography. Since we consider creative expression on of the six pillars of Grinnell’s liberal arts education [9], I wonder why we don’t hire more studio art faculty [10]. Perhaps the new position in Media Studies will help. For the time being, let’s hope that the department can identify a few part-time people to cover more sections and that they can find spaces to offer those sections. And, of course, let’s hope that the Dean will pay for those sections.

Traditionally, STA-209, Applied Statistics, is another course that over-enrolls. And this semester, we have one section that is over-enrolled by twenty-two students. But there are 42 slots available in the four other sections, so it appears that we have reached the appropriate level of staffing for that class. It looks like MAT-115, Introduction to Statistics is over-enrolled by nineteen in one section with only eight slots available in the other section. Maybe they can push some students to 209. Or perhaps we [11] can cut one section of 209 to offer another section of 115.

What else is over-enrolled? I’ve already mentioned ECN-111, which they should be able to balance, and CSC-151, which we’ll handle by cutting anyone who is not a first-year student. The 1:00 p.m. section of MAT-215, Linear Algebra, is over-enrolled by twenty and the 11:00 a.m. section is over-enrolled by one. There are six slots left in the 2:00 p.m. section, but that’s not enough. For the second semester in a row, it looks like Math will have to cut a few folks. Fortunately, it looks like there’s sufficient room in MAT-218, which has over-enrolled in past semesters, even though a few students may have to shift from Elementary Number Theory to Graph Theory.

Other multi-section courses that had a section significantly over-enroll by double digits include BIO-150-02, Introduction to Biological Inquiry (nineteen too many in one section), SOC-111-05, Introduction to Sociology (sixteen too many in one section), ENG-205-02, The Craft of Fiction (fifteen too many in one section), CHM-129-03, General Chemistry (fourteen too many), ANT-104-02, Anthropological Inquiries (fourteen too many), MAT-133-02, Calculus II (ten too many), and CHM-222-01 [12], Organic Chemistry (ten too many).

How will students in those courses fare?

  • There are enough sections of BIO-150 to cover everyone. But each section has its own topic, so students will not necessarily be able to do the kind of biology they would like.
  • SOC-111 has forty-five open slots, and so should be able to cover the over-enrollment.
  • ENG-205 has a second section with four slots available, so some students will necessarily be cut. It looks like ENG-206, The Craft of Poetry, and ENG-388, Writing Seminar: Screenwriting, are also over-enrolled, so there are not places for all the students who want to do creative writing. Perhaps a few can end up in ENG-386, Writing Seminar: Poetry. Or perhaps not, since that likely has the 200-level classes as prereqs.
  • There are enough slots in CHM-129; some students will just have to do a workshop-style course rather than separate lecture and lab.
  • The two other sections of CHM-222 combine to provide zero available spaces. My guess is that Chem will balance the three sections and keep all students, even though they are larger than planned.
  • ANT-104 appears to have a total over-enrollment of six. I’m not sure what they’ll do about that.
  • Finally, there seem to be enough slots to cover all the interest in Calculus II.

Then we have the situations that all of us hate to encounter, classes with only one section that are over-enrolled. I’ve already mentioned Drawing and Photography. What else is up there?

  • ECN-226, Economics of Innovation, has twenty students too many. That’s not surprising. The course is always popular, and I recall that Brad was not able to offer it last year.
  • CSC-213, Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms, has twenty students too many. We really wanted to be able to offer a second section, but don’t have the staffing. I’ll write more about CS in a subsequent paragraph.
  • LIN-114, Introduction to General Linguistics has nineteen students too many, and that’s with the course already cutting out all juniors and seniors. We really need to find a way to offer more sections [14].
  • PHE-195, Off the Grid, is over-enrolled by seventeen students. Is there a way for the College to pay Zeiss extra to offer another section? [15] Would he be willing to do so? Hutchison to teach a second section, if she’s willing?
  • PHE-202-01, Coaching Methods, is over-enrolled by fifteen. I’m not sure what the alternatives are there.
  • ENG-274, Sex, Gender, & Critical Theory, is over-enrolled by fourteen. That’s become typical for a Garrison class, so I’m sure that John and the English department have a strategy in mind.
  • EDU-295-02, ST: Incarcerated Literacies, is over-enrolled by fourteen. I’m not sure what the options are there.
  • THD-117, Introduction to Acting, is also over-enrolled by fourteen. Once again, we see an over-enrolled creative expression course. While I’m sure that Craig has a standard process for handling that situation, it may be that the College needs to think more broadly about its support for creative expression.
  • PHI-271, Neurophilosophy, is over-enrolled by twelve. It’s good, but perhaps not surprising, to see some Philosophy courses getting high demand. This may be a case in which students get dropped and encouraged to consider other philosophy courses.
  • MUS-201, Digital Music-Making, is over-enrolled by twelve. There’s no room in the classroom for more students. I wonder whether they’ll prioritize music majors or what.
  • BIO-345, Advanced Genetics, is over-enrolled by ten, even though it’s an 8:00 a.m. class. Advanced Genetics always over-enrolls. I expect they’ll end up having to ask a few students to shift to Animal Physiology or the Special Topics course in Immunology.
  • ARH/CLS-395, ST: Ancient Greek Sculpture, is over-enrolled by ten. Monessa always has to cut students. I wonder if it ever gets any easier.

That’s about all I can cope with thinking about for now. For those who care, here are a few other over-enrolled single-section classes:

  • Over-enrolled by nine students: CSC 262-01, Computer Vision, ENG-295-02, ST: Grinnell Writer’s Workshop, and ART-240-01, Ceramics.
  • Over-enrolled by seven: POL-295-01, ST: Political Psychology, PSY-248-01, Abnormal Psychology, HIS-277-01, China’s Rise, MAT-321-01, Foundations of Abstract Algebra [16], ANT/AMS-295-01, ST: Politics Food & Otherness [17], ENG-121-01, Introduction to Shakespeare [18], and SOC-285-01, Contemporary Sociological Theory.
  • Over-enrolled by six: ENG-223-01, Tradition of English Lit I, HIS-244-01, World War II on Eastern Front, ARH/CLS-250-01, Roman Archaeology and Art [19], and CSC-324-01 and CSC 324-02, Software Design & Development [20].

Is this worse than prior years? I’m not sure. But I get depressed thinking about not only the effects on students as they are cut from classes they want to take, but also the faculty workload (not only work involved in the the process, but the emotional load). And then there’s the followup load for both students and faculty as they collaborate to identify appropriate alternatives. At least there are still

Switching topics, I thought it would be interesting to look at courses with multiple sections taught by the same instructor. That provides an opportunity to consider potential effects of class time. By focusing on the same course and the same instructor, we generally eliminate issues of topic [21] and of student bias about instructors [23].

This year, there appear to be a variety of opportunities to compare offering times. (Same Prof, same class, different times.)

  • There are two sections of ANT-104, Anthropological Inquiries, with Kulstad. The MWF 9:00 a.m. section is over-enrolled by fourteen. The MWF 1:00 p.m. section is over-enrolled by three.
  • There are two sections of ARH-103, Introduction to Art History, with Rivera. The MWF 10:00 a.m. section is over-enrolled by five students. There are nine open slots in the MWF 11:00 a.m. section.
  • There are two sections of CSC-207, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms, with Rebelsky. The MWF 8:30 a.m. section has eight slots. The MWF 1:00 p.m. section has seven slots. [24]
  • There are two sections of CSC-341, Automata, Formal Languages, and Computational Complexity [25], with Hamid. There are three slots in the MWF 9:00 a.m. section and two slots in the MWF 1:00 p.m. section.
  • There are two sections of ECN-111, Introduction to Economics, with Ferguson. There are twenty-three slots in the MWF 8:00 a.m. section and thirteen slots in the MWF 9:00 a.m. section.
  • There are two sections of ECN-111 with Ohrn. There is one slot in the TuTh 8:00 a.m. section. In contrast, the TuTh 9:30 a.m. section is over-enrolled by twenty-five students.
  • There are two sections of ECN-280, Microeconomic Analysis, with McGavock. The MWF 9:00 a.m. section is over-enrolled by four. There are four slots in the MWF 10:00 a.m. section. At least they balance nicely.
  • There are two sections of ENG-120, Literary Analysis, with Sutaria. There are no slots available in the MWF 10:00 a.m. section. The MWF 1:00 p.m. section is over-enrolled by six. [26].
  • There are two sections of FRN-102, Introduction to French II, with Alexandre. The MTWF 8:00 a.m. section has twenty available slots. The MTWF 10:00 a.m. section has nine available slots.
  • There are two sections of GRM-102, Continuing German, with Samper Vendrell. The MTWF 8:00 a.m. section has twelve available slots. The MTWF 10:00 a.m. section has thirteen available slots.
  • There are two sections of GWS-495, Bad Feminists, Bad Critics, with Allen. The MWF 10:00 a.m. section has three available slots. The MWF 2:00 p.m. section has ten available slots.
  • There are two sections of JPN-102, Beginning Japanese, with Kojima. The MWF 10:00 a.m. section has eight slots and the MWF 2:00 p.m. section has six slots.
  • There are two sections of MAT-215, Linear Algebra, with Mileti. The MWF 1:00 p.m. section is over-enrolled by twenty. In contrast, the MWF 2:00 p.m. section has six available slots. I wonder why the hour makes such a difference.
  • There are two sections of MAT/CSC-208, Discrete Structures, with Stone. There are fifteen available slots in the MWF 8:00 a.m. section and one available slot in the MWF 1:00 p.m. section.
  • There are two sections of STA-209, Applied Statistics, with Miller. There’s one slot left in the MWF 10:00 a.m. section. In contrast, the MWF 1:00 p.m. section is over-enrolled by 22 students. Who knew that 1:00 p.m. was so popular?
  • There also two sections of STA-209 with Olsen. There are 6 open slots in the MWF 8:30 a.m. section. There are also 17 slots available in the MWF 2:30 p.m. section. Of course, there’s a second section MWF at 2:30 p.m., with 18 available slots, so that may have draw students away from the 2:30 p.m. section.

My not-so-surprising conclusion from all that analysis: Students avoid 8:00 a.m. classes if they can. I guess the biggest exception is German. Perhaps that says something about students who take 100-level German. But, more broadly, it may be worthwhile rethinking our use of 8:00 a.m. slots. I know that we need the 8:00 a.m. sections to make sure that students can take a wide variety of classes and so that we have classrooms for all the classes. Still, I wonder whether there’s some other alternative.

I also learned that 1:00 p.m. is a comparatively popular time. I wonder why.

What else? Oh, yeah, I’d promised to discuss how CS plans to deal with the over-enrollment of twenty students in CSC-213. I’ll admit that I don’t know for sure; we’re discussing it on Monday. We’ll keep all of the seniors who need it to graduate. I assume we’ll keep all of the juniors who have not yet taken CSC-211 or CSC-213 [27]. Beyond that, I’m not sure. In the past, we’ve tried to balance those students to other courses. But there’s no room in CSC 301, Analysis of Algorithms or CSC-324 and Software Design and Development, and only a few slots in CSC-341. We may be able to do some shuffling to allow us to offer another section of one of the core courses, which should help. Fortunately, next year should be better as we’ll be at approximately one more FTE than this, and we seem to have leveled off at about sixty majors per year.

I’ll also note that there are some great courses that still have room. I don’t want to list too many because that would make courses conspicuous by their absence. Let me just say that if I were still a student, I’d try to take Fredo’s ART-295-01, ST: Caribbean Art and Visual Culture and Katya’s ANT-295-03, Mapping Antisemitism. More generally, I’m glad to see that there’s still a wide array of courses I can recommend to my advisees, or at least my open-minded advisees.

[1] For example, it can be useful to think ahead to special requests we might make to the Dean or to courses we can afford to combine to free up another section.

[2] It’s less important now that I’m not chair.

[3] You should probably drop a note to the faculty member. And we should have a fallback plan.

[4] I turns out that I need to copy the data into a new spreadsheet to do so, since sorting also affects the formula that filled the spreadsheet. There’s probably a way around that, but it was easier to just make a new each of whose cells linked to the data in the original [5].

[5] I also made a copy of the data at the end of preregistration so that post-prereg changes won’t affect the info.

[6] I’m not saying that’s what we’ll do; I’m just reporting on the data.

[7] I almost wrote MAT-209-03. This year is the first in which statistics gets its own designation.

[8] Perhaps Grinnell students are reacting to Simpson college’s plan to cut their art department, which stuns me.

[9] While the text seems to foreground the study of creative expression above the actual expression, my sense is that most of us foreground the expression.

[10] The obvious answer is that the President and the Trustees don’t support expanding the faculty, and there are no natural cuts elsewhere in the faculty.

[11] By we, I mean Whoever has to worry about these things. I’m not involved at all in decisions about statistics. I’m not even sure whether or not the Math/Stat faculty are involved in decisions about 115.

[12] That’s the 8:00 a.m. section!

[14] I know that CS would like to help with that issue. But we’re already struggling too much with our courses.

[15] I don’t usually ask that question. But for folks who have multiple responsibilities at the College and courses that are one- or two-credits, sometimes other options seem possible.

[16] Ouch! That’s a required course for the major.

[17] Students love Katya. And the Monday 7:00-9:50 p.m. slot seems to be a time they particularly like taking her courses.

[18] A Garrison course with spring-break travel. I’m surprised it was not even higher.

[19] An MC class. I’m surprised the numbers aren’t higher.

[20] I know I said I was only doing single-section classes. But both sections are over-enrolled. Plus, it’s my department.

[21] I don’t think there’s an instance in which a faculty member teaches two different sections of a course with the same number but different content [22]. I’m pretty sure that BIO-150 and ENG-120 are the primary variable-content introductory courses. It’s rare that someone teaches two sections of BIO-150. And I believe that when someone teaches two sections of ENG-120, they have the same focus.

[22] I have considered doing that with CSC 151, but have not done so yet. Few faculty are as crazy as I am.

[23] Students have been known to make decisions based on what they’ve heard about particular instructors, even though they should know that opinions are not always accurate. They are also more likely to choose a course with a named instructor than Staff.

[24] It’s nice to know that I’ll have a semester in which some of my classes have reasonable enrollments. If I count correctly, I’ll have 33 in CSC-151-01, 16 in CSC-207-01, and 17 in CSC-207-02. While there’s a small temptation to combine the two sections of 207, I don’t think that would be healthy for me or the students.

[25] Computer science seems to employ long course titles. We once had a course that we called Team-based software development for community organizations. Right now, I think Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms is the longest one.

[26] The other section of Literary Analysis is also over-enrolled. I wonder what English plans, or what the Dean will require.

[27] Otherwise, we’re just kicking the can down the road.

Version 1.0 released 2018-11-16.

Version 1.0.1 of 2019-11-17.