New search tool available to register for UC Berkeley classes

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Hoping to make class registration easier for students, UC Berkeley’s Office of the Registrar recently released a supplementary search tool to help students explore class options.

After collecting feedback from department schedulers, faculty and students for several years about how they believed the class selection process should be handled, the Office of the Registrar added the new search tool Oct. 13 to the existing Berkeley Academic Guide. It arrives ahead of students’ second semester of class selection on CalCentral, which went into effect last spring.

Students have traditionally used UC Berkeley class search engines such as student-developed Berkeleytime and the now-replaced ScheduleBuilder.

“(It’s an) extremely powerful, highly-customizable faceted search tool,Johanna Metzgar, associate registrar at UC Berkeley said in an email. “Right now there are 7,600 searchable classes in the system for spring.”

One main benefit this tool provides, according to Metzgar, is its robust, searchable data, including work hours, enrollment restrictions, class descriptions, filters, professors and more. Metzgar said the faceted search is user friendly, like the one used in Amazon or Zappos.

It has also improved by adding keyword searching, giving students a number of classes across various academic disciplines they can choose from. While all of the class data is updated three times a day, students can get instant, real-time updates on seat availability by clicking the “reload” button, Metzgar said in an email.

“This tool liberates students from having to know what every department is offering,” said Metzgar in an email. “Try searching by “solar panels” or “fashion” or “inequality” and you’ll see a multitude of relevant classes pop up.”

Unlike CalCentral, the new search tool is also available to the general public and does not require a student login.

Before CalCentral, students for decades previously used Tele-BEARS, which had evolved from a call-in system to an online platform acknowledged by students and campus as outdated. Students expressed concerns with the new system in the wake of its launch in the spring.

Metzgar notes that the Office of the Registrar is working closely with the ASUC Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the group currently overseeing Berkeleytime.

Vaibhav Srikaran, project manager of Berkeleytime and campus junior, said he does not personally think there is a significant difference between Berkeleytime and the search tool.

“I think (the search tool) is a step toward what Berkeleytime was,” Srikaran said. “Berkleytime already has these features, if not more features.”

According to Metzgar, the search tool is not the same as Berkeleytime because the technology is different and its search results are more detailed. Berkeleytime also posts grade distributions for classes, while this system does not.

Srikaran said he is glad that UC Berkeley recognizes the issues with previous class schedule systems and is moving toward sponsoring resources to help students, including this new search tool. He said, however, he thinks it’s still a work in progress.

The Office of the Registrar also plans to add the final exam schedule, summer sessions and a country filter for summer study abroad programs in November or early December.

“We encourage (students) to visit the site and run comparisons for (themselves),” Metzgar said in an email. “This is our first release – we’re staying open to feedback from users to continue to improve the user experience to make it as beneficial and relevant as possible.”

Contact Gibson Chu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.