All MIT departments are going paperless this semester with the implementation of online registration. During registration for the fall 2011 semester, Courses 4, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21W, and 24 tested the new online system. Administrators said that the online system was easy to use for both students and advisors.
Many universities have been using online registration before MIT implemented a pilot online system during the last semester.
“While on the outside looking in sometimes it seems these are easy, quick changes … MIT’s platforms were designed a long time ago and integrating them constitutes a major commitment of resources,” said Susan Lanza, undergraduate academic administrator for Course 9, in an email to The Tech. “MIT prides itself on not being a one-size-fits-all place, and that had to be taken into account in designing this online system.”
According to Registrar Mary Callahan, online registration was not developed sooner because MIT was focusing on other priorities such as PE registration, admissions, and online subject evaluations.
“At times, culturally we weren’t quite ready [for online registration], but we hit the ground running with this,” said Callahan. She noted that 2,630 students registered online last semester, about a quarter of the total undergraduate and graduate student population.
The new registration system has been reduced from a 12-step process to four steps, and it takes information from the central database and provides personalized messages for each student. For instance, exploratory options for sophomores and P/D/F options for juniors and seniors are appropriately populated. This means that a sophomore will only see options for exploratory and cannot designate a class P/D/F, which they can do with the current system. There is still an online approval step required by the advisor, but the hope is that the student-advisor meetings will be more meaningful since it will not need to focus on minutiae.
“We want this [online registration] to reduce the paper-driven inefficiency and improve the relationship between advisors and students,” said Callahan. The registration period for the spring semester has also been extended to a week before registration day to give people more time to set up meetings. Although there is a chance that students or advisors will choose not to meet during the registration period, Callahan said, “Our goal is to continue to believe that face-to-face interaction is the right thing to do.”
Gary King, undergraduate academic administrator for Course 14, stated that faculty advisors in his department did not approve registration until they met with their students. “I think almost everyone agrees that face-to-face interaction is essential,” he said. He was very pleased with the system and said there were no glitches at all. However, there are other processes King would like to see streamlined and automated in the future, such as the completion of a HASS concentration.
Students are currently required to meet up with an advisor twice to discuss their HASS concentration — once to approve the classes for the concentration, and once to verify “completion” of the concentration. King suggested that students should still meet with advisors for the proposal, but the completion should be automated.
Callahan said that one of the next steps will be to make forms and petitions available online. The Office of the Registrar is also planning to take feedback from advisors and students once again to understand which parts of online registration are working and which parts could use improvement.