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A Deeper Look: Single Section Course Offerings

by Christopher Triplett

Are you in the weeds planning your course schedule for the upcoming term? What data are you using to ensure the schedule aligns with student needs while using your instructional resources wisely? One metric you should focus on during the schedule planning process is the number of single section course offerings.

What is a single section course offering? It is a course with one section offered for students at registration. Inherently, the higher percentage of your schedule made up of these offerings can be an indicator that should warrant a deeper look. High rates of single section course offerings can lead to student bottlenecks during registration leading to retention and completion concerns. It can also lead to ineffective use of institutional resources, particularly regarding instructional capacity (i.e. space and faculty allocation). 

How to Start Analyzing Single Section Course Offerings


The Players: Determine the stakeholders you need at the table to review the course schedule.

Ad Astra recommends building a team of institutional experts who can answer the tough questions, work collaboratively to improve student success, and are key influencers across campus.

data_icon_redThe Science: Dive into your data and identify courses that are requirements vs. electives within your program offerings.

As you build your data-informed strategy, consider the following:

  • Does the course consistently run with balanced or high enrollment in consecutive terms or is it a course that is often historically underutilized?
  • Does this course exist on multiple pathways or course sequences for various programs or does it only exist in a few pathways?
  • Is this course a part of a course group or choice of electives in one or more pathways or is it a single requirement?

MAE_LL_icons-01The Art: The stakeholders you assemble should have the ability to discern the courses to focus on based on the insights from the data.

Specific student need, community involvement, mission-based initiatives, and even politics come into play when you start thinking about the courses you need to consider adjusting to create efficiencies. For example, students required to take a Spanish IV or Architectural Design for Civil Engineering course to receive their credential can’t afford to wait another term or more to take that upper level requirement.

The Results
When you take this approach of analyzing your single section course offerings as part of your schedule building process, you give yourself the ability to build a student-centric schedule that is both data-informed and key stakeholder driven. Tying in student academic history, pathway/program course sequences, course enrollment ratios, and institutional qualitative knowledge are keys to making that schedule a reality, as it cares for the science as well as the art. Ultimately, student progress toward completion and the ability to get the courses they need when they need them while maximizing the resources you have available at your institution depends on it.

Looking for more resources around Pathway Refinement or Enrollment Health? Explore articles, podcasts, and webinars in the Academic Planning Resource Center.