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Student selection for limited available seats

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Starting September, lectures will hopefully resume again. Though probably limited to 75 students max, depending on the lecture space, and covid measures. So, how do you as a teacher decide who can attend the lectures?

There are generally two approaches:

  1. Self-enrollment
  2. Pre-assignment

Before you set out using one of the methods described below, inform at your department if arrangements have already been made.


For self-enrollment, you can have students sign up through a registration form, though such a form does need to be capped to the number of available seats. There are a few available tools for UvA lectures, that can be used for this.

  1. Canvas scheduled appointment
  2. Qualtrics registration form

One of the drawbacks of self-enrollment is that it’s first come first serve. Which could have some undesired side effects, like a run on registration, an unfair advantage for students that happen to be available at the moment the registration opens. Though self-enrollment does seem to be minimally time-consuming, it does require that you set this up for each lecture.


With pre-assignment, you as a teacher decide who can attend the lecture. This process involves selecting a subset of students for the number of available seats. Of course, you can sit down, and handpick a few students from the entire class, but some students probably do not actually want to come, which could lead to empty seats in the already limited lecture hall.

A way around this would be to let students indicate if they want to come to the lectures prior to the start of your course. For this you could use Microsoft forms or Qualtrics, or even email if you prefer. Though, the latter would be significantly more work to manage. Our tip would be to ask students for their student number in the sign-up forms, so you can use these to inform them about their assigned time slots. Our MS forms template form is available here. Just hit the duplicate button on the top right to use it for yourself.


Based on the total amount of students, or only the interested ones, you can start assigning. For this you can use one of the following approaches.

Manual selection

For manual selection, you could use excel and chunk the available students into the number of lectures with the appropriate number of available slots. With a column for each lecture and student numbers in the rows. You can create an attendance table even before your course starts. Though, to avoid the question of fairness with hand-picking attendees, random selection might be a better option.

Random selection

For random selection, you would basically do the same, but this time you could use a randomization function for the selection of the students for each lecture. For this purpose, the wonderful Laura van Aalst from the Psychology ICTO department has created a web app that does just that. Just follow the link below for the app and full instructions.

Another option would be to use Groupify within the canvas assignments to have students indicate their preferred top lecture slots. Groupify will assign all available students to only one spot, so you could get stuck with empty seats.

Before diving straight in, please contact your local ICTO department on how to set up Groupify for lecture assignments.

Informing students

Posting the excel with the schedule to canvas would be the easiest way. This is approved by our  privacy officer to be GDPR compliant if only the student numbers, lecture slots and nothing else is posted. Though an optimal way would be to use the collected and assigned student numbers to bulk email all students per lecture. This comes down to selecting the student numbers for a specific lecture, dropping those in the BCC in outlook, writing a nice message containing the lecture they are selected for, and hitting sent.