For most McGill students, registration is one of the most stressful parts of starting a new semester. With only a certain number of seats available, it is increasingly rare for students to be able to find space in all of their desired, or even required, courses. Instead of being excited for new classes and a fresh start, it is not uncommon for students to spend the first few weeks of classes endlessly hitting the refresh button on Minerva in hopes of making last minute changes. “The class I hope to get into has negative three seats remaining,” laments one U2 accounting student. “This is very discouraging as four people would need to drop the class in order to register.”
Currently, McGill’s registration system is frustrating for many reasons. Daniel Kraminer, a U2 Honours Investment Management student, describes it as “a one size fits all solution to a complex problem, which, more often than not, requires the aid of an advisor, making the process lengthy, stressful and inadequate.”
Having encountered many problems with the registration system himself, Noah Lackstein, a U2 Finance and Entrepreneurship student, created his own solution: getaseat.ca.
How it works can be seen below
John Doe: ACCT 354, why must you be [full, closed, reserved]?
Getaseat.ca: Chill-out John. I can help you with that. First, visit www.getaseat.ca. Then, tell me what course you are trying to get into — choose the section you want. The instant a spot opens up, I will send you an e-mail or SMS text message, telling you to head over to Minerva and take the spot ASAP. I can’t guarantee that you will be the first to claim the spot, but it’s a hell lot easier than refreshing Minerva every minute!
John Doe: Getaseat.ca, I love you [<3]
“I was trying to register for a course that was full, but could never remember to keep checking Minerva to see if it had opened up,” Lackstein explained. “So I wrote a quick program that would automatically check for me every few minutes, and text me when I would be able to register.”
At first, Lackstein created this program as a simple solution to his individual problem. This quick fix for Lackstein turned out to be exactly what many students have been looking for. “When I told my friends what I had done, many of them asked if I could set it up to notify them when the courses they wanted became available. As a Management student, the only logical next step after validating the market was to make it available to everyone at McGill.”
Lackstein’s main goal for the website is to make the registration process easier for both students and advisors. “Every morning during the add/drop period, when I walk into the Bronfman building, I’m greeted by an hours long line of students waiting to see an advisor in order to get into a class that’s currently full. It’s not unheard of for students to start lining up at 6 a.m. I think that that is ridiculous. Get a Seat exists to make it easier for students to get the courses that they want to be in.”
Additionally, Lackstein hopes to see getaseat.ca reduce the wait time to see an advisor. “There are students that absolutely must see an advisor in order to get the courses they need for graduation, and they’re waiting in the same line as people that want to change sections simply to avoid the dreaded 8:30AM time slot in Stewart Bio,” he noted. “Get a Seat improves the registration process for both groups. Students that must see an advisor will spend less time in line, and students that just want different sections won’t need to line up at all.”
Get a Seat comes on the heels of McGill’s recent release of a Visual Schedule Builder tool, that allows students to visually compile potential schedules, and provides them with the appropriate course codes for registration. This feature was in fact inspired by a third party platform similar to Get a Seat. Many students will remember the days of SmartMinerva, developed by Alex Daskalov, the same McGill software engineering student behind the popular course resource sharing site Docuum.
In an effort to get McGill IT to back the SmartMinerva platform, access was blocked to the site for several weeks, during which Daskalov urged students to contact McGill IT and request their support of the tool. While McGill opened discussions with Daskalov, they opted for a program developed by a Concordia student, that resulted in the integration of the Visual Schedule Builder.
It is therefore not the first time a third party has looked to offer extensions and capabilities to an admittedly dated system. Although Get a Seat will not solve all the problems associated with course registration, it is a fantastically effective tool that addresses a key concern for far too many students this time of year. Lackstein hopes to reduce the stress and frustration induced by registration and help students better navigate the obscurity that is Minerva.
For more information about Get a Seat, visit www.getaseat.ca