January 12, 2007

Integrate course selection tools

The first thing students learn each and every quarter at the University of Chicago is that the online course registration system is a mess. The three essential tools available to students—time schedules, the course catalog, and cMore—often have conflicting information, which severely hinders the registration process. To help solve this problem and fix other flaws in the system, the University should streamline its online registration resources by creating a new website that offers immediate access to consistent information.

At a university with so many intriguing courses and brilliant professors, it is difficult enough to decide which classes to take without the problems inherent in the online registration system. Information provided in the course catalog frequently conflicts with the listings published on the time schedules or cMore. Students spend time researching classes and reading descriptions for courses ostensibly being offered, only to find no mention of the class when they attempt to register. At other times, students discover a class listed on the time schedules that has no corresponding description in the course catalog.

Given that all registration information is contained on the internet there is no excuse for course listings to be out of date. If a class is canceled, the change should not only be noted on cMore, but throughout the available resources. The time schedules, cMore, and the course catalog should be continually updated, especially during eighth week, when students are registering for classes, and during the first three weeks of every quarter, when students are finalizing their schedules.

To provide consistent information and further improve the registration experience, administrators should create a single site that integrates all available resources.

This site could provide links between the time schedules, cMore, the course catalog, and course evaluation resources, allowing students to access all relevant information conveniently and immediately. Instead of having to open separate windows for each resource, students could use this single site to manage their registration decisions. For example, students could click on a professor’s name in the course catalog and be taken directly to a course evaluation page. A similar link could take students to the time schedules or cMore.

At the University of Chicago, students are taught to pursue the truth vigorously and thoroughly in all aspects of life. It’s high time for administrators to facilitate the achievement of this ideal by providing a registration system with consistent information and easy access to all available resources.