New registration date for ExCollege brings department into the mainstream

ExCollege director Howard Woolf watches election results come in during the Election Extravaganza at Hotung Cafe on Nov 8, 2016. Ray Bernoff for ExCollege

In the past, students have had to wait several weeks after picking their regular classes to register for ExCollege classes. But this semester, the ExCollege debuted a new registration date for its fall 2017 classes. For the first time, ExCollege classes are available for registration on SIS at the same time as general course registration.

According to Howard Woolf, the director of the ExCollege, the ExCollege never intended to have a later course registration date. However, the department had previously been unable to finalize its course offerings in time for regular registration since it comes up with entirely new course offerings every semester.

“We had a procedure where at the beginning of the semester we’d immediately send out this huge mailing … and give everybody six weeks to apply,” Woolf said. “That automatically put us behind the registrar’s schedule because she wants the courses all done by six weeks, in for the following semester, in order to be ready for either November or April.”

In order to accelerate its registration dates, the ExCollege needed to speed up its course-creating process to meet the deadline for regular classes as determined by the registrar’s office. According to Madeleine Delpha, the ExCollege program administrator, getting onto Interfolio, the management software that Tufts faculty use to add courses, had been one of her main goals since she joined two years ago. This would provide them with the efficiency needed to meet the acceleration deadline, but other members of the department didn’t know how best to go about it.

“The chair of our board said, ‘Well, there’s a faculty search tool that the university uses. It’s called Interfolio.’ So I just went ahead and called the central university [about it],” Delpha explained. “It was actually very easy … the system was already in place at Tufts. It just took reaching out.”

Woolf said that student convenience is one of the ExCollege’s prime concerns. He hopes that this change in registration time will make scheduling easier for students.

“Anything we can do for students to figure out their programs, I think, is a positive thing. That was ultimately the triumph,” Woolf said. “If we don’t accommodate students, then we’re being hypocrites.”

So far, students have reacted positively to this change. San Marie Thomson, a first-year, said that after taking an ExCollege Explorations seminar last semester called “Reflections on Your Schooling,” she is interested in taking one on digital marketing in the fall.

She explained how the earlier registration deadline puts ExCollege classes on students’ radars earlier, allowing them to build their schedules around the classes.

“I think it is a good idea to have [registration] at an earlier time slot because I think it forces you to look at those classes earlier and really take them into consideration, rather than trying to work them into a different schedule,” Thomson said.

According to Woolf, there are currently six times as many engineers registered for ExCollege classes this year than in past years.

“We’re ecstatic, and our first test run happened … when all the engineers signed up for courses,” he said. “In the typical semester, honestly, you can count on two hands the amount of engineers we get because their schedules are so prescribed. Well, right now we have 60 engineers signed up for courses.”

Woolf hopes that this momentum will help the ExCollege collaborate in a more innovative fashion with other Tufts departments in the future. While the ExCollege already has official department status in that it gets official university funding, being on the same schedule as the other departments may help bring it further into the mainstream.

“I could see the fact that we’re now calibrated with everyone else, in sync, [would mean] that we would be able to do more collaborative things,” Woolf said. “The music department, for example, is very interested in testing out courses in some areas that they don’t offer right now, and it’s in their interest to do just that — test them with us first.”