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Preregistration for Spring 2020

Topics/tags: Registration, Grinnell, assorted data, rambly, long

Almost every semester, as preregistration [1] period wraps up, I like to sit down and reflect on what the data say about popular courses and what likely stress points are. Since I’ve started musing, I’ve also tried to record some of the reflections in a musing. We’ve just about finished with the preregistration period for Spring 2020 [2], so it seems like a good time to look at the data.

For those who don’t know, Grinnell handles course registration [3] in a somewhat nontraditional way. Rather than the first come, first served model that many institutions use, we allow students to pre-register for the courses they would prefer to take, even if that means that more people end up enrolled in a course than the stated course capacity. At that point, we start to drop students from the course. If we were sensible, we’d keep the prereg data from semester to semester to better understand patterns in student demand.

I tend to look at the data for three reasons: To figure out what stressors the CS department will have, to find out what courses my students might have to replace, and, well, I’m a bit of a data junkie. I also try to reflect on historical trends, at least as I recall them.

So, let’s go.

First, let’s see what courses are over-enrolled. It’s easiest to look at the courses in alphabetical order by department [4]. AMS/ANT/BIO-220, Racing Through Genetics, has 24 students in a course with a cap of 20. That’s not surprising; it’s a cool topic and it has two wonderful faculty teaching it. If anything is surprising, it’s that there aren’t more students enrolled.

Three of the four sections of ANT-104, Anthropological Inquiries, are over-full. Section 2 has 27 with a cap of 25, section 3 has 29 with a cap of 25, and section 4 has 52 with a cap of 25. Yes, that’s correct, there are 27 extra students enrolled in that section who have to be cut. While there are nine slots open in section 1, that’s not enough to deal with the demand. Will Anthro expand capacity, find a way to add another section, or cut some students?

ANT/HUM-295, Designing Museum Displays, has 28 students enrolled in a course with a capacity of 24. I had expected that to be a Leslie Wright course, but it looks like Kathy Kamp will be teaching it with Leslie. Since folks are helping build displays for the HSSC, it should be an exciting course. I’m not surprised that so many students have registered. I wonder who they will keep and who they will cut. I should suggest to my advisee who registered that they drop a note to Kathy and Leslie.

ANT-395, Language and Humor, has 18 students enrolled and a cap of 15. Seminars with 18 are hard, but it may be that they’ll be generous in this case.

Next up is Studio Art. Anyone who regularly reads the registration data knows that demand far outstrips supply in introductory art. I still don’t understand why Grinnell doesn’t find a way to add another tenure-line position in Studio [5]. How bad are things this semester? Section 1 of ART-111, Introduction to the Studio, has 52 students enrolled with a cap of 15. Section 2 has 52 students enrolled. So the course is over-enrolled by 64 students, enough for four additional sections. ART-134, Drawing, isn’t quite as bad.
It’s only over-enrolled by 31 students between the two sections. So they’d only need two more sections to meet this semester’s demand [6]. Other over-enrolled courses in Studio Art include ART-195, Intro to the Moving Image (17 students for fifteen slots) and ART-295 (27 students for fifteen slots).

Switching to the sciences, I see that section 1 of BCM-262 is over-enrolled by eleven students and section 2 has four open slots. Biological Chemistry [7] usually keeps students. However, it looks like they’ll need to shift a bit, particularly in lab. They may also need to add another lab section if they can find a time to offer it and someone to staff it. One section of BIO-150, Introduction to Biological Inquiry, is over-enrolled by 12. However, there’s room in the other courses. Some students will get shifted around. One section of BIO-252, Organisms, Evolution, Ecology, is over-enrolled by eight students. However, there are two other sections, one with eight slots and one with seven slots. Those should balance out.

You know what? I’m bored with the over-enrollment data. I assume you are, too. So let’s just look at a few highlights [8]. Two of the most over-enrolled courses are SST-195-01, the Social Impact of Documentary Film (50 students for a course with a cap of 20), and RUS-195-01, ST: Soviet Food Culture, with an incredible 67 students in a course with a cap of 15. I think it’s cool that a course taught by a CS alum has so many students. Since it’s a short course, perhaps the Wilson program can fund two sections this semester. What about the Food Course? It’s wonderful that they have a course to take advantage of the new international kitchen in the HSSC. I’m pretty sure that it can’t take more than fifteen students. And the Monday, 7:00-9:50 slot is really the only one that works for that type of course. I wonder what Todd will do.

I am interested to see the increasing number of courses offered in the Monday evening slot. In addition to those two over-enrolled courses, as well as the music ensembles traditionally offered on Monday evenings [9], we are also offering: a Peace and Conflict Studies special topic course on Mediation and Conflict Transformation for Leadership; a Wilson course on the SPARK challenge; a Theatre course on Stage and Production management; Scholar’s Seminar [10]; Dean’s writing seminar on writing television scripts [11]; and another creative writing course, this time on writing in German.

You know what? I can’t help but look at a bit more enrollment data. CS will have some cutting, closing, and balancing to do. But I’ll write about that separately. What other departments look stressed? Let’s take a look at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. There’s only one section of Calc. I offered, and that is over-enrolled by 2 with a cap of 32. I assume Royce will allow those extra two students in. One section of Calc II is over-enrolled by 2, but one has two slots, and another section has sixteen slots. Strangely enough, the same person is teaching the over-enrolled section and the one with 16 open slots. I should return to the issue of time.

I had seen that one section of Linear Algebra was over-enrolled by nineteen, even with a cap of twenty-eight. But the 8:00 a.m. section has more than enough slots to cover those students. I guess there’s a question of whether anyone is up to learning Linear that early in the morning [12].

On to the first real problem: MAT-218-01, Combinatorics and Number Theory, is over-enrolled by eleven students. Since 218 is a bridge to the upper-division math classes, you can’t really drop students from it. There is room in MAT-218-02. However, that course has a very different subject, Geometry, and there may be reasons for students to have a natural preference for Combinatorics and Number Theory. For example, that’s a much better combination [14] for CS majors.

We’ll conclude the Math side with my biggest concerns, the two core 300-level courses. MAT-316, Foundations of Analysis, has thirty-five students in a course capped at twenty. Since that’s a proof-writing course, they can’t really over-enroll the course. Since it’s a required course, they can’t easily drop students. MAT-321, Foundations of Abstract Algebra, is in nearly as bad shape, with twenty-nine students in a course capped at twenty. Again, it’s not a course that they can easily cut students from. If it were me, I’d find a way to offer another section of one of the courses and hope that things balanced out. There is, unfortunately, one more issue on the Math side: There are nineteen students enrolled in MAT-322, Algebraic Graph Theory, which has a cap of twelve. Since MAT-321/322 is one of the common sequences, I assume they need to find a way to make room for those students. How will they do so? We shall see.

How are things on the statistics side? Well, STA-209-04 is one of the most over-enrolled courses at the College, with sixty-nine students in a course capped at twenty-six. Section 1 is over-enrolled by six students. In contrast, there are twenty-one slots available between sections 2 and 3. That’s not enough to cover the over-enrollment by forty-nine students. In fact, it still leaves twenty-eight students uncovered. Conveniently enough, that’s enough for another section. I wonder if there’s a way to free or hire someone to teach that.

Next up in Statistics, the new STA-230, Introduction to Data Science. There are two sections of that course, each with a cap of 18. One is over-enrolled by nine students, the other by ten. There’s enough interest for them to offer another section of that course, too. The 300-level stats classes appear to be at or slightly above capacity. Whee!

Now, I suppose you’re thinking that with demand for at least two more classes in Math and two in Stats, there’s evidence that Math/Stats needs another position. But things aren’t quite that simple. There’s no reason to believe that a Mathematician can easily teach an upper-level Stats class or vice versa. They are simply two fields that share one department. If we saw similar needs in French and Arabic, we wouldn’t try to hire one person to cover both languages.

As I look again, I find myself getting a bit more nervous about Statistics. Pam’s teaching. Shonda’s teaching. Jeff’s teaching. And two visitors are teaching. So we seem under-staffed with two visitors in place. Stats needs another tenure-line position as much as Art does. And when they hit four tenure-line statisticians, I wonder whether Math/Stats will fissure, just like Math/CS did [15].

Okay, that’s enough on over-enrolled courses. Let’s return to the question that got implicitly raised in looking at Calc II: What are more and less popular times? We’re going to limit our exploration to courses that offer two sections taught by the same faculty member. What are those classes, and what do we see?

  • FR is teaching two sections of ART-103, Introduction to Art History. The 11:00 a.m. MWF section has 22 students enrolled. The 3:00 p.m. MWF section has 11 students enrolled. It appears that students would prefer something outside of the 3:00 p.m. slot. Alternately, there are students taking classes with a lab in the afternoon, or afternoon seminars.
  • KK is teaching two sections of ART-111, Introduction to the Studio. The 10:00 a.m. TuTh section has 54 students pre-enrolled. The 1:00 p.m. TuTh section has 42 students. I’m not sure whether these numbers are high enough that they are not informative, but we see another preference toward morning offerings.
  • JC is teaching two sections of ART-134, Drawing. The 10:00 am MW course has twenty students enrolled; the 1:00 pm MW course has 41 students. That seems to be a preference for afternoonofferings.
  • BD is teaching two sections of BCM-262L, the lab for Introduction to Biological Chemistry. I’m not sure that lab enrollments are as informative as course enrollments, but I note that there are seven students enrolled in his 8:00 am Thursday lab and nineteen in his 1:00 pm Thursday lab. Is the difference due to conflict with Tuesday/Thursday seminar, because students like to sleep in on Thursday mornings, because students know labs tend to go long, because the expectation is that labs are in the afternoon, or something else?
  • CL is teaching two sections of BIO-363L, Neurobiology Lab. The Wednesday afternoon section currently has twenty students. The Friday afternoon section currently has twelve. I’m not surprised that students prefer Wednesdays to Fridays, but I am surprised at how many would choose the Friday lab.
  • LL is teaching two sections of CHI-102L, Beginning Chinese II Lab [16]. The 10:00 a.m. TuTh section has twelve students. The 2:00 p.m. TuTh section has eight. A slight preference for morning sections on Tuesday/Thursday.
  • HH is teaching two sections of CHM-129L, the General Chemistry Lab. The Thursday afternoon section has thirty-five students. The Friday afternoon section has eight. As I suggested, Friday afternoon labs are likely to be less popular because they cut into the weekend.
  • SS is teaching two sections of CHM-222L, the Organic Chemistry II Lab [17]. His Thursday 8:00 a.m. section has eight students. His Friday 1:00 p.m. section has ten students. Those two are close enough that I won’t try to do any analysis.
  • EM is teaching two sections of CHM-363L. There are ten students in the Thursday afternoon lab and eight in the Friday afternoon lab. Again, those numbers are close enough that I would not make any conclusions based on the difference.
  • JDS is teaching two sections of CSC-161, Imperative Problem Solving with Lab [18]. The 8:30-9:50 a.m. MWF section has twenty-nine students enrolled. The 1:00-2:20 p.m. MWF section has thirty-nine students enrolled. I wonder why afternoon wins.
  • FH is teaching two sections of CSC-207-01, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms [20]. The 10:00-11:20 a.m. MWF section has twelve students enrolled. The 1:00-2:20 MWF section has twenty-five students. I don’t understand why afternoon is so much more popular in this case, but it clearly is.
  • SH is teaching two sections of Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms with Lab. The morning one, which is 10:00-11:50 a.m. MWF, has thirty students. The afternoon section, which is 2:00-3:50 p.m., has twenty-five students. I’m beginning to reach the conclusion that CS students prefer the afternoon.
  • NE is teaching two sections of CSC-301, Analysis of Algorithms. Both the 8:00 a.m. and the 1:00 p.m. section have fifteen students. There goes my conclusion.
  • EO is teaching two sections of ECN-111, Introduction to Economics. There are only five students in the 8:00 a.m. MWF section, but there are thirty-two in the 1:00 p.m. TuTh section. Is that a time preference or a day of week preference?
  • KB is teaching two sections of ECN-280, Microeconomic Analysis. The 10:00 a.m. MWF section has twenty-seven students. The 11:00 a.m. MWF section has only fourteen. What a difference an hour makes. I’ve been told that 10:00 and 11:00 MWF are the two most popular times. I wonder why 10:00 wins (loses?) in this case.
  • LL is teaching two sections of ECN-286, Econometrics. The 8:00-9:50 a.m. MW course has twenty-eight students. The 10:00-11:50 a.m. MW section has thirteen. How did Logan get permission to teach two morning sections? And, come to think of it, how did KB? I thought If thou offerest two sections of the same course, thou shalt offer one in the morning and one in the afternoon was one of the policies the Registrar imposed from on high. In any case, I expect that the 10:00-11:50 section is more likely to conflict with other courses, which outweighs the we don’t want to wake up for an 8:00 a.m. class perspective.

Are you getting bored with these data yet? I may be. but I feel an obligation to finish. And I’ve learned two interesting things: The Registrar’s office does not enforce its policies uniformly and I seem to have been incorrect in my assumption that we should offer CS courses preferentially in the morning because it frees science students for afternoon lab. So let’s soldier on.

  • SS is teaching two sections of ENG-120, Literary Analysis. There are eleven students in the 9:00 a.m. section and seven in the 11:00 a.m. section. I also note that four of the five sections of Literary Analysis seem to be in the morning [21].
  • TM is teaching four sections of GRM-102L, Continuing German Lab [22]. There are twelve in the Thursday 10:00 a.m. section, four in the Thursday 11;00 a.m. section, one in the Friday 1:00 p.m. section, and none in the Friday 3:00 p.m. section. That last bit is surprising. But the class at 11:00 a.m. Thursday is. I thought no classes were allowed at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.
  • DR is teaching four sections of GRM-222L, Continuing German II Lab. The section at 10:00 a.m. Thursday has three students. The section at 1:00 p.m. Thursday has two students. The section at 8:00 a.m. Friday has two students, and the section at 11:00 a.m. Friday has no students. I’m glad to see that German offers students multiple options, which makes conflicts less likely. And it’s a lab, so I’m not going to try to make any conclusions.
  • MS is teaching two sections of JPN-102, Beginning Japanese II. The 10:00 a.m. MWF section has fifteen students. The 2:00 p.m. MWF section has eleven students. I see a slight preference for the morning.
  • EO is teaching two sections of JPN-102L. The 10:00 a.m. TuTh section has nineteen students. The 2:00 p.m. TuTh section has seven students. That’s a clear shift to the morning from the class distribution. Room for Tuesday/Thursday afternoon seminars? I’m not sure.
  • BS is teaching two sections of MAT-133, Calculus II. The MWF 1:00-2:20 section has thirty-four students. The 2:30-3:50 p.m. section has only sixteen. Is that the curse of Friday afternoon courses, or something else?
  • GG is teaching two sections of MUS-112, Music Theory I lab. The 10:00 a.m. Tuesday section has seven students. The 3:00 p.m. Tuesday section has eleven students.
  • AT is teaching two sections of NRS-250L, Neuroscience Lab. The Wednesday afternoon lab has twelve students. The Thursday afternoon lab has fourteen students. There’s not enough difference to analyze.
  • DZ is teaching two sections of PHE-100-19, Rock Climbing. Both are at the same time. I assume that 19A is in the first half of the semester and 19B is in the second half of the semester. There are seventeen students in the early-semester section and only four in the late-semester section.
  • JM is teaching two sections of PHI-111, Introduction to Philosophy. There are eighteen students in the 11:00 a.m. MWF section and eleven in the 3:00 p.m. MWF section. I’m guessing that the difference is due to the avoid Friday afternoon preference, or perhaps just a reluctance to take 3:00 p.m. classes.
  • CC is teaching two sections of PHY-132L. Both the Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon sections have fifteen students.
  • DL is teaching two sections of POL-101, Introduction to Political Science. There are thirty-two students in the 1:00 p.m. MWF section. There are only fourteen in the 3:00 p.m. MWF section. I think we’re seeing a trend here.
  • JS is teaching two sections of SOC-111, Introduction to Sociology. The 9:00 a.m. MWF section has fourteen students. The 11:00 a.m. section has sixteen students. That’s close enough that I won’t draw any conclusions.
  • CO is teaching two sections of STA-209, Applied Statistics. The 8:30-9:50 a.m. MWF section has thirty-two students enrolled. The 10:00-11:20 a.m. MWF section has ten. Why? I’m sure that Chris could help me with some informative statistical analyses.
  • SK is teaching two sections of STA-230, Introduction to Data Science. The 8:30-9:50 a.m. TuTh section has twenty-seven students. The 1:00-2:20 TuTh section has twenty-eight.
  • DP is teaching two sections of WRT-101. The 10:00-10:50 a.m. Tuesday section has five students. The 1:00-1:50 Wednesday section has one student. I can’t separate the day of the week from the time of day.

And that’s all I found. There may have been more. Did you learn anything from these data? I had my assumption about afternoon classes confirmed; students seem to avoid Friday late afternoon classes, which also means that they avoid MWF 3:00-3:50 classes.

Do I have anything else to report about this year’s preregistration data? No, I think that’s enough for now. I may return to the post-cut-close-balance data to reflect on what happened next. Or that may be enough for this semester. We’ll see. And, as I’ve suggested, you can also look at the data and make your own conclusions. But be careful, the data are likely to change soon.

[1] I believe we’ve officially changed the name to Open Registration.

[2] I’ve forgotten whether prereg ends at 5 p.m .or midnight on Thursday.
It used to end at 5 p.m., but I seem to recall that we made changes in recent years. Ah! The email message I have from the Registrar’s office says that it ends at midnight. So I guess things can change a bit from 6 p.m. on Thursday, when I started writing this musing. C’est la vie.

[3] More accurately, registration for everything other than a student’s first semester, or when they’re returning from leave.

[4] Or, more precisely, department abbreviation.

[5] Yes, I realize that we can find talented MFA students from UIowa at relatively affordable prices. But that’s not particularly ethical.

[6] I realize that the demand would not be as high if they came closer to meeting demand each semester. But I’m pretty sure that the demand would still be enough to warrant another faculty member.

[7] That’s right, you should refer to it as Biological Chemistry, not BioChem.

[8] Or lowlights, as it were.

[9] Perhaps just music ensemble, in the singular. The only one I see right now is the Oratorio Society.

[10] For those not aware of Scholar’s seminar, here’s the description.

This discussion seminar focuses on current theories of learning and on the personal and environmental factors that impact the learning process. Students will research and practice evidence-based strategies and apply them to their existing courses with opportunities for reflection and feedback. Open to all students. Grading scale is S/D/F. Prerequisite: None.

That sounds like a good use of a student’s time. And it only meets for the first half of the semester.

[11] I’m surprised that Dean’s course has not over-enrolled.

[12] I acknowledge that there are some morning people out there. I used to be one of them. But I’m pretty sure that there are studies that show that those in their late teens and early twenties do less well in the early morning. I am aware that 8:00 a.m. is not all that early. But it’s early enough to have an effect. I’ll let you do the Web search for the appropriate studies.

[14] No pun intended.

[15] We did not split Math and CS because of the number of CS faculty. We split because it was clear that the two halves of the department functioned very differently and had different needs and interests. It helped that we were moving to separate floors, which made acting as a single unit ever harder. Some College policies, which effectively penalized students who had an interest in both CS and Math, also gave us incentives to split.

[16] It does seem that we’re getting a bunch of labs in a row. However, Chinese lab is two days a week, and so more like a regular course.

[17] Will the labs ever stop? I’ll admit that teaching two sections of lab is more likely than teaching two sections of most courses.

[18] If it’s with lab, why don’t we get credit for teaching the lab [19]?

[19] That was a rhetorical question.

[20] We have some long course names in CS.

[21] Admittedly, one is on Tuesday/Thursday morning.

[22] Yup, we’re back to labs.

Version 1.0 released 2019-11-17.

Version 1.1.1 of 2019-11-17.