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More Than 4,250 Students Participate in Online Sectioning

By Rosalind S. Helderman, CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Once upon a time, sectioning for classes was quite an adventure. Teaching fellows roaming through crowded lecture halls handed out sectioning forms, and students spent the good part of a lecture ranking about a dozen times that fit into their schedules.

Those days are numbered.

This fall, more than 4,250 students avoided the old messy process and logged on to their computers to section for courses, reflecting an increase of nearly 24 percent from last year.

This trend was particularly prevalent in Core classes, 10 of which used the online program to assign students to sections.

Many students have been pleased with the ease and speed of the new streamlined, online sectioning format, particularly for Cores.

Maya 1. Goreau '01, who sectioned online for Social Analysis 10, "The Principles of Economics," was happy indeed.

"It was nice to be able to do it late at night and from the convenience of my own dorm room," she said.

However, some students ran into trouble with the online software.

Kate L. Hable '01 repeatedly received an error message from her computer when she attempted to section each of her four classes.

"I had to try for several days before I gave up and used a friend's computer," she said.

The sectioning program, which was started in 1995, is run by the Instructional Computing Group (ICG), which also maintains Web sites for many Harvard classes.

In most cases, students can simply log into their e-mail accounts, type "section" at the "fas%" prompt and beging choosing the most convenient section times. The process normally takes just a few minutes.

David P. Heitmeyer, who manages the software for the ICG, said the program has been "very successful."

"It's certainly not without its glitches here and there, but...it'll work even better in the future," he said.

Teaching fellows have also been pleased. "[On-line sectioning] works just as we hoped," said John S. McHale, head teching fellow for Ec-10. "It's certainly eliminated a lot of paper work."

Paul S. Bergen, manager of ICG, said that the software, when used correctly, can section a 1,000-person core such as Ec-10 in as little as 20 minutes.

Bergen predicted that more and more classes wil switch over to on-line sectioning in the future, especially as the program is continually refined.

"We're going to try to take steps to enhance our service for the teaching staff," he said.

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