The next step: registration on the Web

Tom Lopez

When spring quarter registration begins Wednesday, students will have a new tool to help select their classes.
A new program enables students to register on the World Wide Web, using any computer with Netscape Navigator and Internet access. The new program will allow students to register more easily than before, as well as provide information on books, professors and other topics.
“I think it’s really going to have a big impact,” said Cheryl Vollhaber, the systems manager of the Student Information Systems and Libraries, and one of the coordinators of the new program. “It allows for easy, universal access.”
The system provides more options than are available through registering with the online Student Access System.
One of the differences in the new system is the fee statement that students get when they finish registration. The printout, now called an enrollment statement, can include information on courses, textbook prices, bookstore locations, ways to contact professors, final exam schedules and campus maps that pinpoint class locations.
“For some of this information students may have had to search through their (paper) class schedules,” said Susan Nemitz, assistant to the associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “Now they can just click a box and they have the information.”
Students can select which information they would like on their statements, allowing for a “customized statement,” Vollhaber said. “Every student has the opportunity to have control over the information they’re getting.”
The Web registration is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Information Technology. The University is something of a pioneer, Vollhaber said, because it is one of the first universities in the country to implement the program.
And although the University was not the first to use Web registration, administrators say they believe they have designed the best online registration page in the country. Vollhaber said she and some of her colleagues presented a demonstration of the new system to college and university administrators in Indiana last October.
“We had people coming up to us saying we blew them out of the water, because of the format,” she said. “The (registration) screens are simple, they’re easy to use, they’re colorful, they’re fun.”
The University conducted a test-run of the new program during fall and winter quarters. The “silent roll-out” was not advertised, because “we wanted to make sure the system we’d built was going to be able to handle the load,” Nemitz said. “Just by word of mouth we had about 1,500 students, which was a lot more than we expected.”
During this test run, the registrar’s office conducted a student survey to get feedback on the program. “The results of the survey have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Mary Koskan, an associate registrar.
According to the most recent survey, the most popular feature of Web registration is the final exam schedule, followed by textbook and instructor information.
“One of the questions was ‘What could we improve?'” Nemitz said. “A lot of students said, ‘Nothing.’ A couple of people said, ‘Why didn’t we get this years ago?’ It’s because there wasn’t the technology available. A couple of years ago there was no World Wide Web.”
Student involvement, the program’s coordinators say, is the reason the Web page is of such high quality. Aside from survey results, students were also involved in designing the site.
“On the Web team we had students designing the system — so students were working to tell us basically what it was they liked and wanted,” Vollhaber said.
Nemitz added that all student input has been vital to improving the site. “That’s why we’ve been doing the survey,” she said. “To make sure that we’re getting input so that we can keep making improvements.”
The new system was built upon features of the Student Access System, which was installed a few years ago and was itself a great technological advancement, Vollhaber said. “This is built upon a very extensive and complicated product, without which we would not have been able to make this project,” she said.
A big advantage of the new system is the “point-and-click” features, which are easier than the function keys of the previous system, Nemitz said. Students can still register on the Student Access System, as well as in person in Fraser Hall.
Another plus, Vollhaber added, is the universal availability of the Web. “Students don’t have to stand in line, or even come to campus,” she said.