Overview of the Web Registration Process at St. Olaf College

Mary Cisar, Registrar, Jeff Dixon, Bob Breid, IIT (updated January 2011)


During a course choice submission period, students submit multiple complete schedule variations, one schedule per horizontal row or rank.  Using the registration tracking tool, students find out what their registration result would be if registration were run at the moment of viewing. This result is subject to change until the course submission period closes, and results are not guaranteed.

Once the submission period closes, the system employs a round robin order for running the registration results: making a series of vertical passes, the program attempts to place students in courses, one course per student at a pass.

As soon as the computer finds an open, valid first course, it places the student into that course.

The computer continues to make vertical passes.

For each subsequent pass, the computer considers only courses that belong to the schedule containing the course chosen in the previous pass. 

All schedules that do not include that prior course are excluded from further passes.

The program continues until it has run through all passes for all students, maintaining a descending order of seniority (for a semester: seniors, juniors, sophomores, first-year students; for Interim: first-year students, seniors, juniors, sophomores).

Consult Step-by-Step Instructions for Web Submission of Course Choices for detailed information on how to complete the course choice submission process.


St. Olaf’s web registration process is the result of the work of a faculty-student task force (2003-2005). During that time, the task force consulted with students (including Student Senate and teams of students in Professor Chuck Huffs Computer Science 263 Ethical Issues in Software Design) and faculty (especially department chairs/program directors) and considered many different options. The task force designed and implemented St. Olafs version of the tree model (also used for many years at Rhodes College and Davidson College) based on the following:


To encourage, for every student, a coherent undergraduate experience, based on planned choices, that meets the graduation requirements of the College. In order to meet this goal, each registration period must, to the degree possible, enable all students to register for the appropriate number, level, and distribution of courses based on their program of study and individual interests.


The following principles underlie the model:

Confidentiality: St. Olaf is committed to a process that ensures privacy of student records in compliance with federal regulations (FERPA);

Fairness: St. Olaf is committed to balancing seniority (seniors first) with access to appropriate courses for all students, both on and off campus;

Public Process: St. Olaf is committed to a process that informs students, faculty, and staff of procedures and registration rules and provides the greatest possible access to relevant information. No student or group of students should be privileged over others via special exceptions to publicly stated registration rules;

Equal Access: St. Olaf is committed to a process that ensures that students have sufficient time to complete the web process at times that do not conflict with other obligations; the order in which students submit choices is, therefore, distinct from the registration order, which is planned random (a number is assigned to each student; the order of the numbers is shifted each term in a planned fashion, maintaining seniority by class year);


Distinct on-line component: St. Olaf is committed to a web-based rather than arena-style process;

Human Interaction: St. Olaf is committed to a process that ensures human interaction despite the web-based process, through faculty advising and intervention by the Registrars Office as appropriate;

Expression of Preferences: St. Olaf is committed to a process whereby students have the opportunity to express course choice preferences;

Transparency: St. Olaf is committed to programming of the model that is as straightforward as possible, so that, once people are trained to use the system, it will be intuitive and easy to use.


Appropriate Use of College Resources: St. Olaf is committed to a process that seeks the most effective and efficient possible use of College resources, including space, faculty, staff, and student time, and staff/students work budget; and that enables department chairs, program chairs, and the registrar to monitor registration and to adjust, if needed, the supply of appropriate courses to best meet the needs of the departments/programs as well as of students.


Reduction of Stress Level: St. Olaf is committed to a process that, once understood and practiced, reduces stress among students, faculty, and staff.