November 21, 2004

Registrars office registers, hopes to fix kinks in system

As students scramble to bid on classes this week as part of winter quarter registration, many have run into the problem of having to pick between classes that are offered at the same time. This problem and classroom overcrowding are drawing the attention of the University Registrar, Thomas Black, who announced plans this week to the Maroon to "update, stabilize, and add functionality to" cMore, the online site for registration bidding.

It was down for several hours on Tuesday because of technical difficulties. Black recognizes the problem many students face when selecting their schedules, since 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. are the most popular slots for classes. It is up to the departments to decide what times they want to offer classes, provided that they fall under "canonical hours."

The Registrar's office is "encouraging departments to look at the distribution of classes," which will help solve classroom schedule conflicts and give students more class options. As a result of this, four core humanities classes were offered at 7 p.m. this quarter.

The opening of the GSB center adds six classrooms to the central pool, boosting the number of rooms in which the Registrar can schedule classes to 66. Although this is likely to solve some classroom conflicts, overcrowding remains an issue.

The "shopping period," when many students sit in on classes that they have not registered for, makes it difficult for the Registrar to determine how many students will actually end up enrolled in classes. Black explained that the problem is often "discretionary," as professors decide to let more students into the class than the classroom is meant to hold.

Many students have noticed the effects of overcrowding and the lack of diversity in time offerings. "Last quarter, my Durkheim class was supposed to be 25 students, but we had 40, so at least five people had to sit on the floor every time," said Kei Kondo, a fourth-year in the College. "Sometimes with Hum and Sosc, I've noticed that they're clustered around noon when the professors like to teach, and then you do have conflicts about what to take," said Joshua Wexler, a second-year in the College.

Some students said they wish that the time schedules for later quarters would be posted earlier so they could plan ahead and avoid time conflicts with their sequences. "Next quarter I want to take this econ class, but it's hard to switch Sosc sections," said Anna Bondarenko, a second-year in the College.

For many students, the technological aspects of registration bidding can be frustrating. cMore was down on Tuesday from "3:15 to 5:30," according to Therese Allen-Vassar, NSIT Director of Web Services. "There was an interruption in the connection between cMore and the databases," she said. "The database was up, and cMore was up, but the connection between the two was temporarily lost. NSIT personnel worked on the problem until it was resolved. To prevent a recurrence, we are working both on steps we can take in the near term and in the longer term to make sure cMore is always reliably available."

The Registrar hopes to improve registration by consolidating the different websites so that students can find information about courses more easily. "At my other school, it was a lot easier. You could put in the professor or time you wanted and get a list of classes. It was easier than scrolling through the department list," Pendry Haines, a transfer student from Bowdoin College, said.

Jeremy Guttman, a member of the Student Government Committee on Academic Affairs, recognized this as one of the biggest problems with registering for class. "There are separate websites for add/drop registration, time schedules, course descriptions, and evaluations. It is a big pain for students to jump between all of these different websites to try to make decisions about classes."

The Registrar is hoping to work with Student Government to improve cMore's accessibility, Black said.

Some students encountered errors from the financial aid office or registrar's office, which prevented them from registering. "In the beginning of the year I lost my first choice classes, because the financial aid office prohibited me from registering even though there wasn't a problem. My dad had to come talk to them, and they still said there was a problem. I couldn't register until the night before school started," said Laura Artim, a second-year in the College. "Everybody's helpful, but they're not really accurate with the financial system."

The Registrar acknowledges this is a problem, and they are synchronizing data from the students' academic records and registration with data from the billing component and putting the data into one system. "We ask students not to be alarmed—it has to do with synchronization. We know how to fix the errors. Sometimes we miss a particular programming instruction and we have to make sure we catch them," Black said. He expects that the problems will be fixed by the end of the term.