Polaris’ fourth registration period went without any major hiccups. The Office of the Registrar, however, continues to make minor tweaks and changes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. The biggest change that has been made is allowing instructors to enroll students in oversubscribed classes.

During Round One of registration for the spring semester, 84 percent of students got into three or more of the classes they registered for. Interim Registrar James Higginbotham said this percentage is an increase from previous years. Higginbotham said that the increased success of Round One is because Polaris makes it easier for students to make more informed choices when choosing classes.

“Polaris is great in some ways because you can actually look and see if a class is oversubscribed or not,” he said. “There are classes that you have to take so you might pile up the numbers, but if you’re sitting there thinking about some other parts of the curriculum, you can actually anticipate where there might be a buildup of pressure.”

When a course is oversubscribed, the spots are determined by priorities set by the faculty. All students with higher priority are registered first before any students with lower priority. Some courses are set so that students previously shut out during registration are bumped up on the priority list. 

In situations where priority is equal and there are not enough spots to accommodate all students, the system randomly selects which students to register. 

Though Polaris has made the process easier on registrar staff, they still have their work cut out for them when registration time rolls around. A program with as many moving parts as Polaris requires extensive checking for errors both before and after running the algorithm. Due to this double-checking process, it takes longer to complete a registration round than it takes for the computer to spit out results. 

“With any complex computer program you have to check for errors and make sure the data is in place,” said Higginbotham. “Polaris is new for us so we want to make doubly sure that things are right.”

This year, Round Three has changed to allow students to add and drop classes with instructor permission as opposed to the first-come-first-serve system of years past. Higginbotham hopes that this change will allow for more flexibility for faculty in accepting additional students into over-registered classes and give students more of a chance to know all of their classes well before the semester starts, instead of having to wait until the first day of classes to see if they get off of waitlists. 

The changes made to Polaris since its creation, including the recent change to Round Three, were not unexpected. 

“Polaris will never be static,” said Higginbotham. “It will always be changing and we will always be making sure that what we have works well and adding new capabilities and functions that make registration and advising easier.”

The dynamic nature of Polaris is one of the reasons that the extensive double-checking of results is so necessary and despite the program’s success so far, the Office of the Registrar is not prone to overconfidence. 

“[Each time] we’re doing registration there are new capabilities or things that we’ve changed and adjusted to run more smoothly,” said Associate Registrar Martina Duncan. “We don’t want to take for granted that it’s just going to go.”

But changes within Polaris are not the only ones the Office of the Registrar has faced over the last few years. The implementation of the Polaris system has changed the makeup of the office itself.

Along with Duncan and Higginbotham, the office employs Cassaundra Harris, another assistant registrar, whose primary duty is to report Polaris data to departments and the larger campus community. Brett Bisesti, who has an IT background, has also joined the team as a systems specialist.