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ISSUE 120 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/4/2007

New registration system succeeds

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, May 4, 2007

Months of hard work and planning on the part of the Registrar's Office and weeks of preparation on the part of students finally paid off last week with the completion of St. Olaf's first web registration for semester-long courses. "We're happy that we did it -- and that it's over," Registrar Mary Cisar said. "For the most part, I think it went well."

The registration process went according to plan, with students registering for two courses online and the rest in the Black and Gold Ballroom. Students completed web registration by April 16, then the Registrar's Office spent the following week analyzing submissions and running the new web-based system in a variety of ways. "We wanted to make sure we didn't disadvantage anybody," Cisar said.

The Registrar's Office experimented with three approaches. The "round robin" approach runs seniors' first choices, juniors' first choices, and sophomores' first choices, and then returns to seniors. The "modified round-robin" approach runs the first and second choice of seniors before following the rest of the round robin approach The "e-ballroom" approach operates in a similar order to ballroom registration.

"The e-ballroom approach actually ended up being the worst for everyone," Cisar said. "We tried these three approaches to see if one would work best for the seniors, but they really weren't that different and we were able to hand-register the seniors for whom the system didn't work." Cisar noted that although some courses are always in high demand, each class year has different aspirations when choosing classes. "Seniors are often not looking for the same requirements as sophomores," she said, "so I think that's why the system has worked out the way it has."

Many students have been pleased with the efficiency of web registration. "I thought it was a lot less hectic to register online," Ralph Montey '10 said. Other students agreed. "Ballroom registration can be pretty traumatic and emotional, but with online registration, you just have to accept what you get or fix it later," Aly Yarnall '08 said. Elizabeth Clark '10 prefers web registration because it does not impose time constraints. "My ballroom registration time was late this year because I was last and the times had gotten backed up, so I'd definitely prefer the entire system to be online," she said.

Other students miss the personal interaction of the former process. "I like the ballroom system better," Corey Holeck '09 commented. "The professors are there so it makes things seem a lot simpler." Other students miss the interaction as well. "I like the human connection that you get with ballroom registration. It makes you less likely to mess up your schedule," Chance Voigt '10 said. Some expressed optimism about personal interaction with web registration in the future. Montey said he hopes the Registrar's Office "will come up with a way to substitute the faculty aspect because that's the biggest benefit of registering in the ballroom."

The web registration process confused some students, which may be the reason some students did not get their first or second choice classes, Cisar noted. "I was pretty confused at first," Essa Mohamed '09 said, "but once I got used to it, it was easier."

Cisar hopes to remedy this confusion by simplifying the process more next time. "We'll have to stress the importance of making multiple schedules with each choice," she said, "and hopefully that will make it a little less complicated for students to submit their schedules." Other modifications to the system will be made to ensure efficiency, fairness and clarity. "The results show that this is a promising way to go," Cisar said. "We'll make the appropriate modifications and keep going with it."

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