October 7, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 2

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    Course registration practices get a much-needed upgrade

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    The University is giving the pink slip the pink slip.

    The age of real-time online class registration is coming to Chicago, and this means that decades-old practices, such as use of the pink drop/add forms, will soon become obsolete.

    Within the next few months, several new class-registration functions will be available, said Tom Black, University Registrar. Not only will students be able to drop or add classes online, they will be able to chart a course’s enrollment in real time, and, in some cases, Black said, they will be able to go online to actually see the classroom where a course will be taught.

    “We’re taking photos of more than 60 classrooms right now,” Black said.

    The changes in course registration are the result of the latest milestone in Project Gargoyle, the University’s five-year, $7.8 million multi-phased transition from a 30-year-old computer mainframe-based system, known as SIS, to a new browser-based, client-server system. This summer, in collaboration with Networking Services and Information Technology, the Registrar’s Office transferred student records from the legacy system to the new vendor-supported system.

    What these changes mean for the University, said Alex Henson, Director of Student and Development Application at NSIT, are vast improvements in student service functionality and efficiency. In the past, the University transferred data in large batches, from one campus database to another. This often resulted in data duplications and delays. Students, for instance, who submitted a proof of immunization form to University Health Services might have to wait for several days before they could register for classes, because of the lag in data transfer from the Student Care Center to the Registrar’s database. Now, however, changes to data are centralized and in real time. “If a change is made to a student’s immunization record by the Student Care Center,” Henson said, “every student service office that needs to be aware of that change, as well as the student himself, can see it. Real-time information is now available to anyone helping students.”

    Few of this summer’s database changes are currently noticeable to users. To date, most of the work has been back-end. But changes are coming.

    “We’re testing to make sure the system is stable before rolling out,” Henson said. In the next year, new functionalities, such as course bidding and online grading, will be added.

    The new system will be accessible through a variety of interfaces. Students, for instance, will access the data through the cMore online system, faculty through Faculty Admin, and administrators through Student Admin. “While accessing this data will happen in different ways,” Henson emphasized, “it’s one central system for student information. We’ve laid the foundation.”

    Few will rue the demise of the pink slip, predicts Registrar Black.

    Black expects that students, faculty and staff, increasingly accustomed to online options in their daily lives, will embrace the new “self-service functionalities” of his office.

    “Students don’t want to come into the Registrar’s Office if they don’t have to,” he said. “And they shouldn’t have to. Most of the services we provide are more easily accomplished online.” By using technology wisely, Black said, the role of the Registrar’s Office staff is changing. “We can become more advisory to faculty and staff and focus on more high-level troubleshooting.”