Administration considers online wait list system

Administrators are working to establish a wait list for class registration, but technicalities may hinder the possibility of its implementation in the near future.

GW officials would like to create a system in which students could place their names on list when a class is full; the first names on the list would be automatically registered for the course as spaces become available. The eventual goal is to have the wait list online, though those involved said a paper version is more likely for the near term.

Student Association President Omar Woodard, who is pushing aggressively for an online wait list, said students are eager for some way to simplify the class registration process.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from students has been very positive,” Woodard said. “I’ve talked to a lot of sophomores who got locked out of the classes they needed at CI, and now they’re taking freshman classes … The fact that (students) can’t get into the classes they need causes a lot of problems.”

Officials said it is impossible to develop a timetable for the wait list, though Woodard said his hope is that some system could be implemented by spring 2006.

Class wait lists are common fixtures at many community colleges but are more of a rarity at schools similar to GW. Some exceptions include the University of Southern California and Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. Adopting such a system at GW would be a major step toward making class registration more fluid, Woodard said.

“It would have a lasting impact for sure,” Woodard said. “It would change the whole way people register for classes at GW, and that’s a big thing.”

Officials said the list would serve the dual purpose of identifying which classes are in highest demand and helping administrators design a more responsive class schedule. Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, said it is possible that additional sections could be scheduled for classes with long wait lists.

The concept of a wait list at GW has been discussed for some time. Last year, Woodard made the idea part of his campaign platform for SA president.

The initiative is still in its earliest stages, with success of the plan contingent upon whether officials can ensure that any automatic wait list gives priority to students with class requirements.

“A critical issue is the order in which students appear on the wait list,” Linebaugh said. “If a student who wishes to take a course as an elective appears on the wait list at a higher position than a student who needs the course to meet a requirement for a major or minor, the student who wants to take the course as an elective would be admitted to the course before the person who needs it to meet a degree requirement.”

Linebaugh said an online wait list could also lead to confusion.

“You can imagine a scenario in which a student registers for a full set of courses and places his or her names on a number of wait lists,” Linebaugh said. “As the system then begins to add students to various courses … students (would) drop courses into which other students are added. These students, in turn, drop courses to which other students are added and so on.”

Woodard noted that academic departments have different ways of coordinating registration, further complicating the process. Even if all foreseeable flaws of the system were worked out, those working on the idea said the project could be bogged down in red tape as several different entities try to work together on the initiative.

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