Improving course registration

Help test Dal's upgraded system on Jan. 30

- January 25, 2013

Help improve course registration this year. (File photo, Nick Pearce)
Help improve course registration this year. (File photo, Nick Pearce)

Online course registration. It’s been known to cause frustration for many, but this year Dalhousie’s Registrar’s Office and Information Technology Services (ITS) hope those feelings are a distant memory.

“We knew students were frustrated last year with online course registration – we were too,” says Mairead Barry, associate registrar at Dalhousie’s admissions office. “We decided that a lot of work was needed to improve online registration.”

Now, the Registrar’s Office is looking to students for their help in testing the updated course registration system. On January 30 at 5 p.m., current Dalhousie students are asked to log on to and complete a test registration (link will be live for the test).

The testing period, meant to simulate actual registration (which opens for returning students in March), should take students approximately ten minutes – and provide valuable insights to Dalhousie’s ITS team.

Helping test capacity

ITS has been hard at work behind the scenes, updating registration software and replacing all of Dalhousie’s hardware systems with more powerful machines

“Student registration places an enormous load on our IT systems – up to 20 times our normal load, for just a few hours out of the entire year,” says Bryan Utas, director of administrative computing. “Planning and scaling our systems to meet this load has been an ongoing challenge.”
Throughout the year, ITS has employed automated tools to complete ‘load tests’ of Dalhousie’s updated online course registration system. While these load tests provide the team with valuable insights on how to improve performance, no automated tools can simulate the real-world behaviour of thousands of students simultaneously logging on and trying to register for classes.

“Wednesday’s load test will give us an opportunity to measure the impact of all of the changes we’ve made,” says Utas, who’s optimistic about the upcoming registration period. “We’ll be monitoring all aspects of the system, and it will give us a chance to identify any other changes we might need to make before course registration begins in March.” 

Participation supports Shinerama

Students are encouraged to join the Facebook event created for next Wednesday’s load test to confirm their participation and receive updates about Dalhousie’s course registration on an ongoing basis.

As an added incentive, for each student who participates in the test and completes a short survey afterwards Student Services has committed to donating $1 to Dalhousie Student Union’s fundraising in support of Shinerama.

“In March we’ll all be holding our breath,” says Barry, of the day students will log on to register for fall term classes. “But it helps to know we’ve done everything in our power to fix the situation.”


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