Sectioning Overview

The Sectioning tool is available through the Fifth Monday, which is the final date for FAS add/drop (with fee). No section changes may be made after that date.

What does the my.harvard Sectioning Tool do?
The my.harvard Sectioning Tool
is most often used by instructional support staff to create and enroll students in discussion sections or labs, but the tool may also be used to move students among discussions/labs. It can also collect student ranked preferences for the discussion/lab they would like to enroll in, and results are downloadable in Excel. Additionally, the tool can be used to email select students or message the entire roster. Finalized discussions/labs (and their enrollees) map to Canvas sections. If you do not see discussions/labs you've created mapped from the Sectioning Tool to the course Canvas site, please contact

Building sections in the my.harvard Sectioning Tool
See the collapsible sections below to view step-by-step instructions. This Sectioning Manual and Sectioning Workflows provide in-depth instructions on how to use the sectioning tool. Please make sure that your pop-up blocker is turned off to view the materials on this page.

Timing your sections
At FAS, the instructional day is organized around designated class start times and fixed pass times. All classes (including sections and labs) must start at a designated start time. Classes will run up to 75 minutes or 2 hours and 45 minutes, with 15 minutes reserved for pass time between classes. For details on compliant meeting days and times, please consult the Revised FAS Schedule. Requests for section space is predicated on compliant meeting times.

Request assistance
- For help with sectioning questions:
- For help with sections populating into Canvas:
- For help with requesting FAS space for sections: visit the classrooms page

Sectioning (FAS)

Sectioning step-by-step

Step 1. Sign in to my.harvard.

Instructors, TAs, and TFs - Select Teaching/Advising from the top menu. Navigate to My Courses section. Click the Sectioning button.

My courses


Step 2. Familiarize yourself with the sectioning tool. 

There are 3 tabs within the sectioning tool:

  • Sectioning Tab: Update/View preferences; Add/Edit sections; Student Roster; Email Selected/All students form the Roster; Section (enroll) students on by one; Upload a File.
  • Modeling Tab: Run Models (Even Distribution/Sequential Model).
  • Reporting Tab: Run a variety of Reports, e.g., View Student Preference Ranking) - View/or export into e.g., Excel.

Before you start!

Step 3. Create /edit sections. 

Please never edit the Lecture/Discussion (Placeholder) Section. When course coordinators create your course, they create a Lecture and a Placeholder section. After you create your additional sections, you will move students from the placeholder section into your newly created sections.


How to Add New Sections?

  • Plan out your sections. How many sections will you need? How many students are in each section?

  • Important: Follow FAS Naming Standard (e.g., LAB: L001, L002, Discussion, D001, D002, etc.); Please note: edits to the Section Title cannot be made after initial saving.

  • All classes (including sections and labs) must start and end at the designated start/end time

Please do not change the Start/End Date in Add A New Class Section (these dates refer to the start and end of the term).

add a new section


How to Edit/Cancel Sections?

Editing: Click the edit section button. Notice that you can only update the room size. Changing the room size will automatically update sections size.

Canceling: To cancel a section click the red X icon next to the edit button. Once a section is cancelled, it will be removed from the Sections area; however, the section number of the cancelled section cannot be reused.

How to edit and cancel a section


How to make Sections Visible to Students?

In order to make sections Available To Students for preference ranking, you must check the box next to the section.

make sections visible to students


Step 4. Create student preference rankings. 

Allow students to indicate their preferred meeting times.

student preferences


Check the box that will Enable Student Preferencing


Select the Minimal and Maximum Rankings (e.g., if you select a minimal ranking of 1 and a maximum ranking of 3, students can provide 1 up to 3 choices; if you selected a min of 3 and a max of 3 students have to select 3 choices).

Important: Enter Start Date and End Date. Note: Both the start and end date have a time applied which is 12.01 a.m. For example if you want to allow students to rank from Friday through Sunday, you need to select Friday as the start date and Monday as the end date.



Step 5. Email students.

Notify students that they are able to choose their preferred sections.

To email students, navigate to the Roster section on the Sectioning Tab. Select All students at the end of the roster table and click Email Selected Students. Note: Students are listed in the BCC status (If you like to keep track of who you emailed, copy emails in a word document). Feel free to attach this helpful link for students on how to preference rank.

email students


Step 6. Assign students to sections using your preferred method:


Method 1: Manually assign students to sections


Method 2: Automate section assignments using algorithmic models

  • Three different types of models:
    • Consider student preferences
    • Evenly distribute students among sections
    • Sequentially fill up sections.
  • Recommended workflow:
    • Run your desired model
    • Resolve conflicts
    • "Lock" students into a section (if you want to run multiple models)
    • Submit to enroll students
  • Important: During high volume use of the sectioning tool running a model can take a few minutes to complete. Do not close your browser or run the model again. Your process is most likely in queue to be processed.

Method 3: Upload sectioning assignments from a spreadsheet

  • Option 1: Use a template Excel file
    • Download the template 
    • Prepare the template
    • Upload the template
  • Option 2: Create a custom Excel file
    • Download the file requirements
    • Prepare the custom file
    • Upload the custom file

Step 7. Email Students that Sectioning is complete.

Please see the Sectioning Workflows to see more detailed instructions for a specific topic.



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Sectioning Checklist

Sectioning Checklist For Curriculum/Catalog Coordinators<embed>
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Sectioning Workflow

Sectioning workflow<embed>
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Sectioning Handbook

Sectioning handbook<embed>
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Loading an Excel File to Section Students

Loading an Excel File to Section Students<embed>
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Sectioning Tips and Reminders

Important Reminders  


When to Section 

  • There is no pre-enrollment sectioning; students cannot be sectioned prior to being enrolled in course. Sectioning uses real enrollments, so students need to be fully enrolled to be able to section.  

  • The Sectioning Tool cannot be used to move students among sections after the add/drop deadline (5th Monday). Please make any necessary section changes before this date. 


  • When students are preferencing sections, the sectioning tool DOES display the TF's name if assigned to sections. If you don’t want names to display, add instructor names after the students preference. 

  • The preferencing start/end dates are effective at 12:01 AM on the day selected. When setting the end date, assign the day after from when you want students to be able to submit preferences (ex. if students should have all day Thursday, use Friday’s date).  


  • Never edit the placeholder discussion section (typically called “DIS” or “LAB”)! This will cause substantial enrollment problems and will prevent students from enrolling in your course. Do not delete or add a meeting pattern to this section, even after the Registration Deadline. 

  • Other courses will likely be sectioning at the same time which may alter students’ time availabilities. If a student was available at a certain time but later has a time conflict, it is probably because they provided that time availability for multiple courses and they’ve now been enrolled in a section for a different course at that time.  

  • Only hit the “submit” button once! Every time adds a new job to processing queue. 


  • “Consider student preferences” will only move students who have submitted preferences. Students who did not submit preferences will need to be manually moved, or you can run another model that does not consider student preferences. We recommend taking preferences into account first and moving students who didn't submit preferences later.  

  • Sequential: Does take preferences into account. Fills students into sections one section/student at a time based on preferences. For example: place a student into 1, place a student into 2, place a student into 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. 

  • Even Class Distribution: Doesn’t take preferences into account. Fills up sections completely then moves onto next section. For example: Fill up section 1, fill up section 2, fill up section 3.  


Tips and Tricks 


Do you want to use the “lock model” functionality on the models page? Keep in mind that lock model is like a "status" so there will only be one locked model. Anytime you lock students, they will appear on the one locked model. Consider two different approaches to locking students: Locking vs. Submit as you go 

  •  Run a model and lock the students that were sectioned successfully. Locking the students does not submit their enrollment; it simply holds them in place until the model is submitted. Run another model and again lock the new students that were sectioned successfully. Repeat until you’re left with a manageable number of students who haven’t been sectioned. Then submit the locked model and section the remaining students manually. OR, 

  • Run a model and submit for the students that were sectioned successfully. Then run another model and submit for the students that were sectioned successfully this time. Repeat until you’re left with a manageable number of students who haven’t been sectioned and place those students manually. This approach submits enrollment changes as you go along as opposed to locking them. 

Will you have multiple sections at the same meeting time?  

  • Instead of creating multiple identical sections for students to rank, create one large section for that time to see how many people are interested. Once you know how many people would want to be in that section, create the additional sections for that meeting pattern (ex. M09A, M09B, M09C).  

Want to see how your students ranked different sections? 

  • Under the “Reporting” tab, download the Student Preferences Report. This will allow you to download everyone’s preferences without going back and forth between tabs. 

  • On the “Sectioning” tab, you can also select Show All Student Preferences so you can compare across multiple students easily.  

Does your course have multiple primary components? (such as language courses with multiple lecture sections) 

  • The “Sectioning” tab will display one tab for each primary component. Use the tabs to navigate to the other primary components. Each tab will display only the students enrolled in that primary component section. Discussion sections may not appear in the Sections list, but you can still select students and swap them among discussion sections. 

 Do you need to move students out of one section and into another to balance enrollments?  

  • Filter by the section you need to move people out of and either use the Student Preferences Report or Show All Student Preferences to find who ranked an under-enrolled section.   


Do you need to email students shopping the course or current enrollees? 

  • For shoppers: download “Current Shoppers” report, for enrollees: Download roster (grid icon) from Sectioning tab.  


Common error messages and next steps 

When trying to… 

Error message 

Reason & Fix 

Swap students among sections 

“User does not have access to the drop transaction. The transaction was not processed.” 

The Sectioning Tool cannot be used to make swaps after the add/drop deadline. Email and the Registrar’s Office will make the change on your behalf.  

Swap students among sections 

“A scheduling conflict exists with a currently enrolled course. Select another class, or override the time conflict.” 

The student has a time conflict with the move-to section so cannot be moved. The student needs to receive permission from the Administrative Board to simultaneously enroll in courses. Have the student contact their Resident Dean to facilitate this process.  

Swap students among sections 


“You cannot swap from and to the same course when the swap course would receive a penalty.”  

The student may be cross-registered and their career may have different add/drop deadlines or grading bases than FAS. Email and the Registrar’s Office will make the change on your behalf. 

Swap students among sections 

“Not enrolled in the ‘From’ class. Swap not processed.”  

There is a mismatch between the primary component in the class associations and schedule of classes. Email and the Registrar’s Office can correct the issue. 

Swap students among sections 


“Swap not processed. Hold on record.” 

Student may have an advising hold or another service indicator. Email and the Registrar’s Office can correct the issue. 

Assign TF to a section 

“The value entered in the field does not match one of the allowable values.” 

The TF has not been assigned to the course instructional staff, or their permissions need to be edited. Email and the Registrar’s Office can correct the issue.  




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