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Student Information System

April 14, 2011

For Department Heads: SIS #9

This update focuses on what we've experienced and learned through 10 days of student advance registration.  I appreciate the tremendous amount of work and support that many of you have provided as we register our first sizable groups of students using the new system.  As you will note from my comments that follow, we are experiencing a mix of reactions to the new system and there is a degree of confusion (which I will try to rectify) about which issues are system issues versus human or other. 

The vast majority of students who have attempted to register for classes using the new system have done so without a problem.  As of Thursday morning, 4277 students have registered; this total represents 68% of those eligible to register as of that time.  Over 6000 students have used the new "shopping cart" and over 2900 are using the planner.

By our analysis, circumstances where students have experienced difficulty in registering fall into four categories.  For each, I've estimated the proportion that category provides of all reported issues:

1.  Catalog conflict (35%)
The new system was programmed to implement the current University undergraduate and graduate catalogs.  This was communicated to colleges and departments and, without objection, completed.  We are finding out, together, that there are cases where differences exist between current practice and the catalogs.  Examples include listing prerequisites that are not actually required, listing co-requisites that are advisory in nature and not intended to be strictly enforced, and allowing transfer students to use a given course to meet a requirement that native students cannot (without this distinction being formally noted).

2.  Misunderstanding of system function/user error (50%)
This is a situation where staff and/or students are not using the system as intended in some way.  The most common error in this category are students who believe incorrectly that they meet the enrollment requirements for a given course when they do not.  We have encountered students who believe they are declared majors when they are not, and who believe that they meet prerequisites when they do not, among others.  (Please know, by the way, they we do not seek to blame staff or student users of the system for "errors"; our goal is to help all to learn to use this new tool so it can serve its intended purpose.  I describe these as I do only to allow everyone involved to understand what is happening). 

3.  Programming error/system bug (10%)
These are situations where aspects of programming survived testing, but nonetheless had problems that surfaced only after the system was in use.  Three more substantial ones have involved students in teacher education, Honors students, and wait lists.  Initially the system was not allowing Honors and teacher education students to register.  Once these issues were diagnosed, programming changes were undertaken and this problem should be solved by Thursday (April 15, 2011).  Initially, students have been unable to add themselves to wait lists (even though they correctly sought to add themselves to a wait list).  This problem is being researched; in the meantime departments can add students to wait lists using Quick Enroll.  A limited number of other, minor coding errors were initially made.  As these have been identified, they are being corrected as quickly as possible.

4.  Course setup error (5%)
These are situations where there are problems with how the courses were setup by academic department staff.  Again, the vast, vast majority of these were fine, but there have scattered cases where course setups were problematic.  Examples include limiting enrollment to one student (which is the default if a different number is not entered), un-checking the box that allows departmentally-granted exceptions to be processed, and scheduling a course that has a co-requisite when the co-requisite is not offered in the same term. 

Here is what we are doing:

1.  We are "debugging" programming and course setup problems as quickly as possible upon identification.  Except for the wait list issue, we believe that we are close to up-to-date on these.

2.  We are responding to concerns of individual students who complete an online help form or visit the Registrar's Office.  We are researching their particular situation and providing a custom response that details our findings and advises them on options.

3.  We are communicating to departments when we identify "catalog conflict" issues, and asking the department how the department would like to resolve them.

4.  We continue to update online training resources, which are available to everyone, as will offer additional instructor-led training on the student registration process.  This training could serve as a refresher for those who have already participated or provide a baseline of knowledge for those who have not yet participated in training.  This additional training will be posted on the SIS training site very soon. 

We need your help in these ways:

1.  Refer students to the "Registration" page at the Registrar's website:  This is a well-organized and clearly displayed set of information, tools and links that students can use to help themselves register.

2.  Please do not automatically describe to students that the problem that they have is because "the system isn't working."  This undermines our ability to implement the new system, and it adds to the degree of student error because students then believe the system is broken and see no reason to check their work.  They go to the Registar's Office or submit an online help request and, in most cases, the problem is not a problem with system.  In responding to student online help requests, our staff has analyzed the situations carefully and pointed out to students why (in approximately 80% of the cases) they don't meet the enrollment requirements. (I'm pleased to report that most are then apologetic).

3.  If a student receives an error message when trying to enroll that says that they don't meet the enrollment requirements, please help them understand that enrollment requirements are not just prerequisite courses.  Also in this category are co-requisite courses, class rank, admission to certain groups like Honors and Teacher Education, grade point and priority for registration (declared major, etc).  Advise students (or help them) review the course information in the schedule of classes and then see if they meet all of the requirements listed.  (The schedule of classes provides all course-related enrollment requirements in one place so is the easiest and best place to check).

4.  If a student is still unable to register, have them complete and submit an online help form (on the Registrar's Office website here).  The information requested on the form is the information we need in order to diagnose the student's problem.  Sending them to the office without this or sending only their name does not effectively contribute to the resolution of their issue. 

5.  If departments identify changes that they want to make (from what is currently noted in the catalog), the department head should please communicate by email to Phil Patton with a copy to Patti Rust indicating the change that you would like to make.  We will work to make the changes as quickly as possible.  The amount of time needed to make changes will necessarily depend on the size and complexity of a given requested change and the number of changes received.

Again, thank you for helping to implement the new system.  By keeping lines of communication open and continuing to work together, we will achieve great things to the benefit of our students and our University.