In previous years, many instructors teaching courses in the College’s required General Education program independently ran lotteries to keep their courses from going over enrollment capacity. As a result, many lotteries ran on different timelines and criteria.
Starting this spring, that will change. The Gen Ed office will pilot a new coordinated lottery system, asking students to rank their Gen Ed course choices and seek enrollment in one or more courses through a single randomized process.
The new semester starts in a week — and with it, course shopping and enrollment. To help navigate the new Gen Ed lottery system, here’s a primer on the process.
The Gen Ed office started working to create a new lottery system last summer in collaboration with Harvard University Information Technology, the Advising Programs Office, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar’s Office, and the Office of Undergraduate Education after observing that some students successfully lotteried into multiple courses while others failed to lottery into any courses.
The new system aims to allow more students to successfully lottery into a Gen Ed course and to relieve student stress, according to the Gen Ed office.
Students will be able to request enrollment in up to five Gen Ed courses on my.harvard. They will then be required to rank their choices by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday during shopping week, the first week of each semester during which students may try out classes before formally enrolling.
If the requested enrollment for a given Gen Ed course does not exceed the limit, all students who requested to enroll will automatically be granted permission.
The Gen Ed office will lottery off seats in over-requested courses. Students will rank their preferences for Gen Ed courses, and the office will use a unified ranked-choice system to assign students to their highest possible preferences.
The Gen Ed office will notify students of their lottery results by 2 p.m. on Thursday during shopping week, and they can choose whether to enroll in the courses they were granted permission to enter. Students who request to enroll in five Gen Ed courses should get into at least one, according to the office’s website.
After the lottery ends, students may petition to enter courses that still have open seats.
No, since lottery results will be determined according to the randomized algorithm.
Gen Ed courses will not have applications to enter the lottery, and the Gen Ed office said it instructed faculty not to approve enrollment petitions before the lottery runs.
Not even seniors who must take a course to graduate will necessarily be guaranteed a seat by the lottery, though the Gen Ed office said students should reach out if this occurs.
Gen Ed courses have a size limit of between 50 and 250 students.
In the spring of 2019, the FAS Standing Committee on General Education decided to cap all Gen Ed courses at 250 students. Individual instructors can additionally choose to impose a lower enrollment cap if they wish.
Several faculty members said last fall during shopping week that they were confused and frustrated by the new rule capping Gen Ed classes.
The only course with an enrollment cap larger than 250 after the new rule was instituted was GENED 1058: “Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature,” offered in fall 2019. The course had a larger cap of 900 students because it formed part of an experiment with larger course sizes.
No Gen Ed course enrollments will exceed 250 students this spring, according to the course catalog.
—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.