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University News

New Banner scheduler apes Mocha features

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Correction appended.

Computing and Information Services plans to launch a course scheduler that functions similarly to Mocha on or around March 15, according to Michael Pickett, the department’s vice president, and Senior Associate Registrar Robert Fitzgerald.

The new program, called the Brown Course Scheduler, will allow students to search for courses and add them to a cart, but also register for these courses directly through the scheduler, a feature Mocha does not offer.

“We know that students need this functionality,” Pickett said. “It’s essential that Brown has this capability, whether it’s Mocha or not.”

A group of Brown students created Mocha during their 2005–06 winter break. Many students use it to find classes and organize course schedules before officially registering on Banner.

“We made Mocha because we thought it was necessary and useful for students,” said Daniel Leventhal ’07, one of the original creators of the popular site. “If people switch over to the Banner feature, then we may eventually stop maintaining Mocha. But as long as it’s still useful, we will keep it going.”

Paul Kernfeld ’12, one of the students CIS chose to test the new feature, said he had mixed thoughts after using it during the test phase.

“The interface isn’t as nice as Mocha, but it has a lot of potential,” Kernfeld said. “There are still minor technical glitches, but it is still in beta and hopefully these problems will be resolved.”

Pickett and Fitzgerald said that the program has gone through rigorous testing and is technically sound at this point.

“March 15 is a moving target. We’re in our final testing environment for it now and it will be ready for summer 2010 and fall 2010 registration periods,” Fitzgerald said.

Mocha, which is operated by a group of Brown graduates, has been known to go down when many users are flooding the system. CIS is hoping that the new Banner scheduler won’t face similar problems.

“We had to make sure it can handle a large number of users and that test passed with flying colors,” said Fitzgerald.

Some of the major features of the Banner scheduler that aren’t present in Mocha are direct registrations through the scheduler and  and smart course searches which take into account whether a student has met certain course requirements.

Pickett said that although this CIS project may seem dismissive of student efforts such as Mocha, the staff always welcomes new and creative ideas from Brown students.

“I’m pleased with what the original creators of Mocha did for the students at Brown, and I want to continue encouraging Brown students to contribute to the student experience,” said Pickett.

Students will have the chance to voice their concerns about the new feature when it goes live, Fitzgerald said.  “There will be a suggestions link when we first go live with the feature, so students can feel free to provide any feedback in terms of functionality and usability.”

Fitzgerald added that in addition to a Morning Mail announcement, students and staff can expect to receive an e-mail in the near future describing these changes being made to Banner.

An earlier version of this article misidentified Daniel Leventhal ’07 as David Leventhal. The Herald regrets the error.

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