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CMU Course Registration


Conceptual Models
Carnegie Mellon MHCI Program
Pittsburgh, PA


4 weeks


Status Quo Model (pdf)
Solution Model (pdf)

Course registration at Carnegie Mellon is tedious.

Students will often register for 2-3x the number of courses they intend to take in order to figure out which courses they like. Then, for the first 3-5 weeks of the semester, students do 2-3x the amount of work, while faculty do 2-3x the amount of grading.

My team resolved to get to the bottom of the situation. After numerous interviews with students, faculty, and staff in the registrar's office, we distilled the problem down to a lack of information, and created the models shown below to illustrate the problem, as well as a possible solution.

While no system was designed as part of this exercise, our models portray a powerful vision that simplifies a complex problem.


The Status Quo

Throughout our research, we found that students sought information from numerous sources to decide if a class was the one they wanted.

However, some of these information sources weren't necessarily reliable; syllabi and course descriptions might be missing from the online repository, the instructor may be too new to have evaluations posted online, etc. In fact, the only reliable source of much of the information was the professor; however, this source was perceived as "furthest away," or most difficult to attain.

The status quo of course registration at CMU

Bring the Information Closer

Certain pieces of critical information about a course — including the description, syllabus, and pre- and co-requisites — were distributed across multiple possible information channels. Students basically had to engage in trial and error until they found the information.

To resolve this issue, we proposed bringing this information closer to the consumer, and consolidating it into one central course information system where all course activities — including waitlist management — could be monitored.

Potential innovation for course registration at CMU