January 11, 2004

Online services guide registration

Getting back to campus to register for classes may have been no easy feat for most students, but several changes in the registration process have at least made the back-to-school transition less painful, helping to eliminate problems with the system of online registration.

Changes include a new add/drop system and the new academic services website, called cMore. These two additions are part of an effort by Network Services and Information Technologies (NSIT) to increase the amount of information online for students.

These alterations allow staff, the Registrar's office, and professors the opportunity to spend more time considering specific registration concerns, and less time dealing with basic logistical questions. The new websites also provide students hope for a better registration experience—with less waiting, fewer forms to fill out, and less confusion.

"There is a large demand for these services, and they can be utilized 24/7," said Alex Henson, the Director of student and development applications for NSIT. "Having all of this information real-time and online also allows us to provide important information to instructors and administrators on a timely basis, enabling them to work better with students."

The changes came after several complaints from students about the registration process, performance problems from the add/drop system in fall quarter, and several online glitches that have plagued online registration.

Thus far, the new changes have been a success for most staff and students. "We experienced no major problems with registration from a systems standpoint. The number of e-mails and phone calls we received during the last few weeks as drop/add was going on has been fairly low," Henson said.

The cMore system, which went into effect last quarter, has been viewed as a successful aid for helping reorganize the online registration system. Because of the change, the office of the registrar has also been able allow registration to go on throughout the winter break for the first time.

The registrar's office has also benefited from the new changes, shifting its focus to the more immediate and specific concerns of students.

While the number of complaints about online registration is decreasing, some problems still remain. University Registrar Thomas Black said that while he is not aware of any major problems with registration, there have been some small mishaps.

"There are the usual individual problems that include changes to the course offerings, e.g. times, days, rooms assigned. There are course set-up errors, and of course individual registration problems," Black said.

The most common complaint among students has been the inability to register for their first choice courses. Although the popular Legal Reasoning is being offered a second time this year to meet the growing interest, many students were unable to register for the course—a requirement for all Law, Letters, and Society concentrators and open only to second-years in the College.

"I closed the course at 40 to provide some room for a lottery for 10 more seats for those who had to take leaves last quarter or had some other problem with registering in the fall," said Dennis Hutchinson, master and professor of the New Collegiate Division and instructor of the Legal Reasoning course.

But many students are frustrated with the lottery process. Without taking the course, students cannot concentrate in Law, Letters and Society.

"After expecting students to pay over $40,000 to attend this school, how do you tell them, ‘no, you are not allowed to be an LLSO concentrator, simply because the one required class for this concentration, in the one year you are allowed to take it, is full?' " said Adelle McElveen, a second-year in the College who is enrolled in Legal Reasoning this quarter.

The frustration over registration for Legal Reasoning presents a common problem created by trying to offer popular classes to as many students as possible while at the same time respecting the instructor's desired class size. "How much more can the department accommodate student interest while still allowing each student to have the experience that this class owes its reputation to?" Mcelveen said.

Most students said that the new innovations in online registration have decreased the frustrating and often confusing registration process. "The addition of the time schedule posted directly in the add/drop section was extremely helpful. Overall the new system has been greatly improved," said James Kowalski, a third year in the college.

NSIT continues to collect feedback about the new system, and will hold focus groups this quarter to fine-tune the process. "We work very closely with the registrar and various deans of students offices to make sure that we offer the right services, and we'll continue to work to improve, enhance, and refine the on-line services we offer over time," Henson said.