May 11, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 16

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    Course registration going online

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    During the first five weeks of each quarter, College advisers and students run the gauntlet of course registration. Advisers in the Office of the Dean of Students in the College process an average of 13,000 registration changes in Autumn Quarter, 15,000 in Winter and 17,000 in Spring.

    But, according to Katie Nash, Dean of Students in the College, this drop-add crossfire will begin a steady decline next quarter because of a new University Course Registration System.

    The new online system will revolutionize the registration process because it is feature-packed and more robust than the cumbersome data-entry system the University will soon retire. The new software is so handy that, according to Ann Harvilla, Associate Dean of Students in the College, the University’s graduate divisions and most of its professional schools will adopt the same program from Exeter Corporation by next year.

    “We are now out of the business of making those thousands of changes during the first half of each quarter,” said Harvilla, who coordinated the University’s search for new software technology.

    In two weeks, College students will register for Autumn Quarter classes using the Chicago Course Registration System for the first time. Harvilla expects the Web-based system will likely reduce the need for so many adds/drops at the beginning of each quarter because of its flexibility.

    “The registration system allows us to conduct quarterly registration, which means students will no longer select courses up to a year in advance,” said Harvilla. This spring, students will register for Autumn Quarter and enter only their preferences for Winter and Spring. Because the new system tracks demand, it also is now possible for the College to assess in advance what courses should be offered when.

    “With the old system, we only knew when a course with 25 spots was filled. We could not track the demand. Now we will know that, for example, 46 people requested Spanish 101, which has, say, only 25 spots. We can now go back to the master of the collegiate division with that information to see if we can add another section because we know it can be filled,” said Harvilla. “Likewise, if an English class of 20 is filled and just three more students select it as their first choice, we can perhaps say to the professor, ‘Can you accommodate three more people?’”

    The registration system allows advisers to spend less time literally performing the transaction of registration and more time helping students frame their coursework and understand the impact of their selections.

    In the past, advisers spent the 15-minute adviser/advisee meetings manually performing many of the registration operations that students will now transact themselves. They will no longer need to sort through a student’s first-, second-and third-choice course preferences to find courses that are open, find laboratory sections that do not conflict with those classes, verify prerequisites, or reference cross-listed courses for availability. And students can now register for courses and perform online any necessary adds/drops outside of their required adviser meetings.

    “One of the things we are looking forward to doing, because we will have more time with the students, is learning more about what this campus offers at, for example, Career & Placement Services,” said Nash.

    “We want to better acquaint ourselves with faculty concentration chairs and know more about individual courses. We want to be better educated so we can talk to students about issues that are important to them.”

    Harvilla expects that eventually the system will allow departmental staff to enter the courses their departments offer, individuals involved in publications to pull from the same data source for course catalogs and time schedules, students to find and register for classes, advisers to verify the selections, faculty to have access to one class list, and the Office of the Bursar to draw on registration data for term billing.

    “Our hope is that this will eventually become one seamless link of information. Everyone will enter data into the same system, and that can only mean better communication with students and among all of the areas involved in this process,” said Harvilla.

    “And now, when students want to come in to see advisers for substantive conversations, we’ll be able to do that from the first day of the quarter.”