Student eases registration process with new program

Karlee Weinmann

Semester after semester, students spend hours crafting the perfect schedule, trying for a mix of major requirements and free time that actually works.

With so many class and section choices, computer science junior Alex Lau thought there should be a more efficient way to register.

So he created one.

With one semester’s experience of Java computer programming behind him, Lau created the U of M Class Scheduler, first available last fall.

“Any moderately good programmer can come up with an algorithm,” he said. “It was easier than I expected.”

The program allows users to input which classes they want to take, when they want to start and end school days, how much commute time is necessary between given classes and set aside blocks of free time.

Additionally, schedules can be narrowed down by only showing sections with open seats.

The scheduler can generate an unlimited number of schedules that meet the conditions set by the user.

Though compatible with the University’s course guide, the program is not affiliated with the University.

on the web

To try the class scheduler for planning your fall 2007 classes, go to:

Journalism sophomore Erik Helin experimented with the program and said it should be incorporated into the standard registration process.

“I think the University should take it over and make it usable for everybody or put in on One Stop,” he said.

Lau shared his ideas with the University, and someday it is likely that a program drawing from his will become a part of the University’s online offerings.

“Alex’s ideas are extremely sound, and that’s definitely the direction we’re heading in,” said William Dana, lead business analyst in the Office of the Registrar.

If the University created its own similar scheduler, it would run even more efficiently since the program would be directly connected to the University’s registration-related pages, Lau said.

Lau’s program downloads the HTML codes from University pages and recognizes patterns that allow his program to be implemented.

Originally there were some inconsistencies between University course pages resulting in snags, but he remedied most of the kinks through trial and error.

To use the program, students must access it from a computer with a Firefox Web browser, Java runtime environment and Windows. Firefox and Java can be downloaded from Lau’s Web site.

The program can be opened from any University PC.

Through fall 2006 registration, the program’s Web site had nearly 4,000 hits.

Lau publicizes his program using Facebook, in a group named U of M Class Scheduler, where he recently posted about another online scheduling tool.

Schedulizer is an application similar to Lau’s that is compatible with several universities’ registration schemes, including ours.

While it can be used under any Internet browser and produces charts, unlike Lau’s scheduler, it lacks the capacity to show all scheduling information on one page and can show only a limited quantity of schedules at a time.

Schedulizer “doesn’t take a lot of campus-specific stuff into account,” Lau said, referring to necessary travel time between campuses.

Though more options will likely be available in the future, for now Lau’s innovation serves as a substitute for a pencil and eraser marks indicating inevitable failed attempts to create the ideal calendar.