SimpleEnroll modifies class enrollment

Oct. 27, 2011, 2:45 a.m.

The 2011-2012 academic year marked the beginning of a new enrollment system called SimpleEnroll.

The system was activated on Aug. 1 for pre-autumn quarter enrollment. The release of SimpleEnroll came as a response to student criticism of the old enrollment system, which could be accessed through Axess under the Student Center tab.

“We’d gotten a lot of input from students on things they didn’t like,” said Director of Student Information Systems Linda Regan, who worked on SimpleEnroll. “They couldn’t see their schedules. It was difficult to see when they had time conflicts and they had a lot of issues with the previous system, so we launched [SimpleEnroll] as an alternate.”

“[Students] still have the capabilities to use the original; but this gives them some better features,” Regan added.

“I was a bit apprehensive about using the new system, [but] SimpleEnroll is just a lot quicker and easier to use,” said Rashaad Kazi ’12. “It’s more intuitive.”

“SimpleEnroll is easier because it solely requires the class title, as opposed to the course number, which was needed in the old system,” said David Huynh ’14.

At the end of August, the faculty was contacted on the subject of the new enrollment process.

“We wanted them to be aware that a significant number had enrolled by the end of August. I believe that we had around 85 percent of undergraduates,” said Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar Tom Black, who also worked on SimpleEnroll. “We wanted them to be aware that people were already setting their schedules, and if they were to change times or affect the class in some way, they were affecting peoples’ schedules.”

The use of SimpleEnroll corresponded with quicker enrollment for the fall quarter. “We did see a jump, but we don’t really know whether something else is going on. At this point, it looks like a casual relationship. We think [enrollment jumped] because the interface is easier, but we don’t know,” Black said.

In cases such as the record-setting enrollment in CS106A, Black believes that while SimpleEnroll may have shared some responsibility, enrollment for the class had already previously been trending upwards.

Associate professor Mehran Sahami, who teaches the fall quarter CS106A course, had a similar response.

“We’ve had tremendous enrollment growth in the CS department in the past few years, so our experience with enrollment has more to do with the rising numbers than with SimpleEnroll,” Sahami said.

In terms of whether SimpleEnroll has affected his enrollment and class planning, Sahami believes that it has not had as great of an effect on the professors.

“From the standpoint of a course instructor, I haven’t seen much of a change as a result of SimpleEnroll. This seems to be an application targeted more for students,” Sahami said.

SimpleEnroll was developed entirely within Stanford and was spearheaded by Black, Regan and Sameer Marella, the director of PeopleSoft & Middleware and Integration Services. Marella and a team of programmers developed the software.

According to Marella, new features in the future seem unlikely.

Students have some criticisms of and suggestions for SimpleEnroll.

“I only came to use SimpleEnroll when I knew what classes I wanted to enroll in,” Kazi said, explaining that he uses ExploreCourses and CourseRank to select courses before enrollment. “CourseRank is much more useful for planning your four years.”

“If SimpleEnroll had the same features [as ExploreCourses and CourseRank], I would just use SimpleEnroll,” Kazi said.

“The first thing I noticed when enrollment opened was that it was extremely slow and I ended up just enrolling in my Chemistry discussion section using the old enrollment process,” said Jason Kung ’15.

“It does not happen every quarter, but this quarter we did see a lot more activity than we did previous quarter. We are looking at taking some steps to improve it,” Marella said.

“The problem always is you don’t know how many users come in, and you can’t size your infrastructure for 2,000 users all the time; so expanding and contracting the infrastructure is the biggest management challenge. We’re looking at making some changes for the next quarter,” Marella said.

Black said he expected the rush to be slower for enrollment in the winter quarter, which opens Oct. 30, due to the fact that it is required for all freshmen and sophomores to see their pre-major advisors before enrolling in classes.


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