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Coarse registration

New course registration site addresses certain issues, but its poorly planned launch creates others.

It’s eighth week, which means the biggest thing on undergrads’ minds is pre-registering for Spring Quarter classes. Though this process is old hat for fourth-years and already familiar to first-years, all students were greeted this time around by a redesigned course registration website. The site, which is in the beta phase of development, comes with a host of positive changes. Unfortunately, however, the overhaul caught many off guard and has been the subject of complaints from surprised students and faculty alike. Releasing a site that’s a work in progress has many pitfalls, but most importantly it shows that the University has left the campus community unaware and unprepared at a crucial time.

Although students were notified by email last week that the new site would be available starting this Monday, the notice consisted of a single sentence near the beginning of a lengthy email that contained many minor details about preregistration. Students were given no indication of the extent or nature of the impending changes. As a result, many are now fumbling through a foreign interface without the help of a tutorial at a time when they are under pressure to make important decisions quickly.

Students weren’t the only ones out of the loop. IT Services was asked to demonstrate the site’s new features to College advisers only after its launch, according to a Maroon article published Tuesday. This meant that advisers—whom students rely upon for their procedural knowledge of registration—were just as unfamiliar with the new site. The University not only slowed down the process of pre-registration, but also undermined its own infrastructure for dealing with such problems by not adequately preparing for the update.

Sadly, these missteps overshadow the changes themselves, which are largely laudable. The changes address a common criticism of the registration process by integrating all the services students need. For example, each course is accompanied by timeschedules.uchicago.edu information and links that lead to course and instructor evaluations. Additionally, course descriptions are slated to be on the site soon.

However, there is evidence that this effort to integrate registration tools is incomplete. Clicking on “Course Details” merely refers users to the online catalog and registering by discussion section isn’t even an option. To top it all off, the site is slow to process any commands you make. All of these bugs raise the question of why the site was opened to the whole community so abruptly when it wasn’t fully ready.

Waiting until the end of Spring Quarter or the next academic year to debut the new site would have allowed the University to provide students with more comprehensive services and the opportunity to learn how to best utilize them. It would do well to put in place a plan to ensure that all students, faculty, and administrators are fully familiar with all the tools now at their disposal the next time pre-registration rolls around. If it does not, the University is sure to see more red faces next quarter.

 The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.