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Registrar's staff begin a year ahead to fill 100 classrooms, please faculty

It's just before 11 a.m. in Storrs and thousands of students and faculty are purposefully criss-crossing the campus on their way to class. That they know where to go is thanks to the staff of Scheduling Services, who started planning for this moment a year ago.

With 5,000 classes and sections to fit into 100 classrooms, getting everyone in the right place takes a good bit of planning - especially when you add to the mix varying sizes of class and classroom, whether or not a professor needs audiovisual equipment, and trying to accommodate faculty members as close as possible to their own departments.

Assistant Registrar Laurie Best says there is a considerable demand for the high-tech classrooms, not only for the technology but also because they can hold the largest classes. "We're finding that professors who are not necessarily interested in high-tech, once they're in the room and find out what the technology can do, are being converted," she says.

There are also personal preferences to be taken into account. Best says there are certain rooms that some faculty love and others can't stand, though renovations to about 40 classrooms to date have placed the newly fitted rooms at a premium.

Despite the best efforts of the scheduling staff, there are some times of day that most students - and faculty - prefer to avoid, most notably 8 o'clock in the morning. Yet at other times of day, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., all 100 classrooms are full. "There have been efforts over the years to spread the classes throughout the day," Best says.

Though fall semester classes have only just begun, Best and her staff have already establihsed the schedule for spring semester classes and are beginning to work on classes for fall 1998. And changes to this semester's schedule are still coming in, as adjustments are made to accommodate students with disabilities, or to cater to larger classes - in some cases caused by faculty retirements.

The wave of early retirements has affected the registrar's office directly, too: the number of staff in scheduling and registration services is down to five, from eight a couple of years ago.

The same staff members also handle the scheduling of final exams - 1,700 each semester, and grades - as many as 70,000 per semester

Much of the work they do is labor-intensive, with all the scheduling information being entered by hand into what is known as the room book.

That will soon change, however, when the office introduces a new software package for scheduling. But before that can happen an inventory must be taken of every classroom on campus, with up to 100 items listed for each room:: is there a black board or a white board, for example? a 10' or a 20' board? are there computer hookups or video cameras?

Plans to computerize scheduling are just one aspect of a technological revolution in the registrar's office since Registrar Jeffrey von Munkwitz-Smith arrived last December.

Already, the University's catalog is on line and students can look up their current schedule and transcript on line; and, by the November registration period, Storrs students as well as regional campus students will be able to register on line.

Other plans in the works include making it possible for students to view their PACE (degree audit) reports on line, and offering a weekly electronic update to the directory of classes.

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu

The 10 most common scheduling patterns in fall 1996
Day Time # of courses
Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. 133
Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 116
Tuesday and Thursday 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. 101
Tuesday and Thursday 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. 97
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. 97
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. - 12 noon 90
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. 81
Monday, Wednesday and Friday Noon - 1 p.m. 65
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. 61
Tuesday and Thursday 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. 58
There were 500 different scheduling patterns, half of which were used with only one, two or three courses.
Information supplied by the Office of Institutional Research.