Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Beginning and Ending the Semester

The Beginning of the Semester: Course Selection Period

Most universities require students to pre-register for courses, meaning that students create their schedules far in advance of each semester by relying on written descriptions and hearsay. Yale College began to implement course registration in Fall 2021.  

In late Spring, Early Registrarion period will open for returning Yale College students to start selecting courses for the fall term.  Course Selection will again open in August for first year students and for add/drop.  Offical dates for all registration processes can be found on the Registration Website.  

Throughout Course Selection Period, Yale College students will have access to 2 “worksheets” in the Yale Course Search registration system:

  1. Registration Worksheet - this worksheet is where students will add courses that they want to officially register for.  For these courses, the students will be added to the associated Canvas course site with the role of Student.
  2. Canvas Worksheet - this worksheet is where students will add courses that they are interested in visiting, but are not yet sure they want to register for.  For these courses, the students will be added to the associated Canvas course site with the role of Visitor.

During the first week or so of the semester, students will visit courses that they have added to both worksheets by attending lectures, seminars and labs; perusing syllabi; and scrutinizing instructors. At the end of the Add/Drop period, students schedules are automatically finalized and their Visitor enrollments (from the Canvas Worksheet) will be dropped from Canvas site.  At this time, students may no longer add additional courses, although any course may be dropped until the last day of the term.  

Course Selection Period is touted by students as a positive experience that allows students to think through their choice of courses each semester, but it can also cause stress in undergraduates and create logistical difficulties for a TF caught unawares. During Course Selection Period, students commonly enter a classroom and leave immediately after picking up the syllabus or, worse yet, halfway through a lecture. (Fortunately, the availability of online syllabi has helped to alleviate this kind of disruption.)

The size and make-up of your class or section will likely be unstable until after schedules are due. Because of this fluctuation, section meetings do not begin in most courses until the second or third week of class, when student schedules have more or less stabilized. For PTAIs teaching language or other courses meeting up to five times per week, class enrollments may stabilize earlier — as early as the third or fourth class meeting.

If you do teach during Course Selection Period, simply treat the first days of class as regular classes. Come to class prepared to teach important material from the start, and take it in stride when students walk in and out in the middle of class. Do not hesitate to assign homework right away. Students are aware that they are fully responsible for catching up with any work they have missed while visting other classes, and you shouldn’t feel compelled to waste valuable class time repeating information for newcomers. Ask that students with administrative questions see you after class or email you.

That said, if teaching a section, it behooves you to prepare your lesson plans keeping in mind that many students may have missed one or two lectures. Remind students that they are responsible for catching up on any missed work, but don’t assume that each of your students will be immaculately prepared during this first week. It’s best not to rely solely on your students to lead discussion during these first few weeks, as you may be faced with fifty very long and quiet minutes.

The End of the Semester: Reading Period and Final Exams

Reading Period refers to the five days each semester between the end of classes and the beginning of the Final Exam Period. During this time, students are expected to complete term work and study for exams. (What students actually do during this time is probably not appropriate for discussion here.) Instructors are free to require that course work be due during Reading Period. However, class meetings may not be held during Reading Period, and any assigned course work may not include any sort of final exam, as finals may be administered only during the days designated as Final Exam Period. That’s the whole point, really.

Scheduling Final Exams: And You Thought You Had Time Management Issues

The Registrar assigns a specific time and date for the administration of final examinations in most courses in Yale College according to the scheduled meeting time of the course. Your course has probably been assigned an Exam Group number (not to be confused with its Distribution Group!) that determines the exam date and time. You can find this number online in the Yale Course Search. If your course does not have a group number, a separate time during the Exam Period may have been set up by the course instructor or the Registrar, but you needn’t worry about that overmuch.

The actual date, day of the week and time of your final should be online by the start of the semester. Final exam room assignments will also appear on Yale Course Search about a week before finals start, and you will be alerted to this fact by an email from the Registrar. It isn’t a bad idea to email your students once you have all the exam information: more than one undergraduate has ended up lost on exam day.

AlternaFinal: Hour Exams and Take-Homes

Instructors occasionally choose to forego the usual three-hour final in favor of another kind of evaluation. Some instructors offer take-home exams.

In lieu of a three-hour final at the end of the term, some courses will choose to schedule three one-hour tests during the course of the semester. In these cases, an instructor may choose to administer the last test either during the last week of classes or during the Final Exam Period. The test may not be scheduled during Reading Period unless the course is scheduled to meet during that week.

The ubiquity of smart phones with their boosted recording capacities, iMovie, and other technologies have given rise to yet another alternaFinal: the final movie or other web- or media-based final project.