Wait no more with waitlisting

Weber State University has heard its students’ pleas for a different approach to registering for courses. This semester, the Registrar’s Solution Center widely implemented a waitlist feature that allows students to register for a waitlist position, even though a class might seemingly have its doors closed.

“(The waitlist) is a great addition,” said Briana Andersen, WSU student. “I was able to get into the online class that I really needed. It was full by the first morning of registration, and a few weeks later someone dropped the class, so I was able to take their spot. It was so convenient.”

Previous to fall semester 2011, a course filled to capacity was a problem for many students. After a WSU course had filled its seats, many students would use their spare time to check, double-check and recheck their student portal in search of an empty seat.

“At Weber, we’re always looking to find ways to help students obtain the class schedules they want,” said Mark Simpson, WSU’s registrar. “Just look at the nature of our student body — some students come from long distances, some from short distance, while others live on campus — and to find that schedule that makes their work life, volunteer life, schoolwork life can be a difficult task.”

The waitlist, however, is not a cure-all for full classes. Only five students are allowed to be on the waitlist at a time, requiring students not yet on the waitlist to check their student portals often for an open seat and a chance to join the ranks of the waitlisters.

“It worked out pretty well for me,” said WSU student Brett Hoxer. “I got into a class I really needed from the waitlist, but I missed another because the list was full. I tried to talk to the professor about letting me in because I really needed the class, but I got a firm ‘No, get on the waitlist.’”

Waitlist technology has been around for a number of years. WSU first experimented with the waitlist option in 2005, the same year WSU adopted the Banner system.  However, due to many bugs with the programming, the Registrar’s Office was forced to abandon the waitlist option halfway through registration.

“We would have students check their student portal dozens, sometimes even hundreds of times, each day — just to snag a class if a seat became available,” said Simpson, who has been employed with WSU for four years. “This really slows down the Banner system for everybody else. It got to the point where some students would even create computer scripts that would check their student portal for them.”

Last year, WSU’s technology partner, SCT Banner, upgraded the system and, after eight months of testing with student users and staff users, WSU finally had the resources to implement the registration tool.

“We had a little over 4,400 waitlist slots full this semester,” Simpson said. “We know that at least 1,200 of those slots were able to eventually sign up for the class they wanted. We’re very excited that 25 percent of students that were on a waitlist were able to get into a full class. That’s just awesome.”

The waitlist also serves another function as a course demand assessment. Courses that constantly have a full waitlist indicate to WSU staff which classes are in high demand.  The Registrar’s Office can then contact the departments about a possible need for additional sections of a course. After a new section is opened, departmental secretaries are able to send a mass e-mail to individuals on the waitlist and inform them about the new opening.

“This is one of the awesome campus successes as far as using technology to help our students,” Simpson said.