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In my department, we have a problem in trying to determine how many credits of electives we should offer. At first, it seems that it should be a simple equation to take the number of students enrolled at the department multiplied by the elective credits they will take on average that semester, and then divide by the minimum student enrollment for a course to help estimate how many credits to offer. The problem is that not only is the average elective credits to be taken not known in advance, but also that students often take electives outside the department, and students from other departments will sometimes take our department's courses.

As a result, the department makes no effort to estimate elective credits, and often offers more credits than could reasonably be filled. This results in under-enrollment of the electives, which means that many do not meet their minimum enrollment numbers, and are cancelled before the semester even starts.

Does anyone have a tool their department uses that works well to mitigate this problem?

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    What are the minimum enrollment numbers at your uni/dept? Are we talking 5, 10, 15 students?
    – tonysdg
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 15:20
  • under-enrollment of the electives — So, not computer science, then.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 20:57
  • There are about 30 students per year, in a 2-year master's program. There are no undergrads, and a handful of PhDs taking courses. It is also complicated by the fact that the Master's program requirements have been shifting lately, so previous year data isn't as applicable to next year. We also have a lot of newly offered electives each semester as teachers propose them. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:29
  • I should also add that our university requires a minimum of 8 students enrolled or a course must be cancelled. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:30

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Gradually converge to a number that works well, and adapt as things change, by adjusting upward or downward each semester if there were too few/too many the previous semester.

Most classes, including electives, are on a fixed schedule (e.g. "this class is taught in the Spring semester every other year") that is determined and then adjusted by the method described above.

Demand is not spread evenly across all electives; a course that is consistently underenrolled when offered every year might be moved to every two years, while a course that is overenrolled when offered once a year might change to every semester.

Demand does not usually change dramatically from one year to the next, so this works pretty well.

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