Registrar hopes for smoother registration this winter

Changes to WebAdvisor and course registration, no more “cookies” message for winter term registration

John Tompkins

In response to feedback and complaints from Washington and Lee students and faculty, the University Registrar’s Office has made and will continue to make a number of major changes to WebAdvisor and the overall course registration process.

According to University Registrar Scott Dittman, last spring the provost tasked a Registration Working Group with identifying and solving various challenges related to registration. The group consisted of representatives from the Registrar’s Office, Information Technology Services, the Law Records office, students and various university department heads.

From a number of surveys filled out by students and faculty, the group identified specific challenges regarding registration, and then recommended “quick fix,” “short-term fix,” “long-term fix” or “no fix” solutions to them.

Dittman said that it was mainly people’s nervousness over the registration process as a whole that drove these changes.

“We don’t want registration to be the most anxious part of a person’s college career,” Dittman said.

For now, at least, the biggest revision to the registration process is the implementation of a “pick one-pick three” registration for fall and winter term, beginning with Winter Term 2016 registration.

In a process very similar to first-year fall registration, students in each class will now be able to pick one course the night before their regular registration period, and then register for their remaining three courses the following morning.

According to an email from the Registrar’s Office, this is being done to improve each student’s chances of getting a spot in his or her top-priority course, and “lighten the load” on WebAdvisor to make it more efficient.

“Being pre-med, I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my course options, and usually there’s one specific class that creates the entire jigsaw puzzle that I’m unable to solve,” Elizabeth French, ‘18, said. “I’m hoping that with the new pick one option, people who really need a particular class will be able to have access to it without getting knocked out by others who have other options.”

Various other changes and solutions to expressed issues have also already been implemented, including:

1. Relabeling the “Advisees” and “My Advisees” links on the faculty menu in order to make them clearer.

2. Restructuring the faculty menu to make it easier to read and understand.

3. Adding terms for the past twelve years to the ‘Search for Classes’ bar as well as the “Class Rosters” and “Class Rosters with Photos” bars.

4. Changing software to ensure correct course enrollments are shown for cross-listed courses in the “Search for Classes” and “Register and Make Changes” bars.

5. Resolving the “too many cookies” error that would cause both students and faculty to have to log out of WebAdvisor during peak times.

6. Allowing instructors to manage active course registration limits to give students waitlist offers more quickly.

Some prospective changes, such as improving WebAdvisor’s overall speed and efficiency so fewer crashes occur and increasing its capacity for more students to use it simultaneously, are still in progress.

Other changes to the registration system are still on hold and will be coming in the future. These include:

1. Fixing WebAdvisor’s outdated technology.

2. Allowing students to see all conflicts, prerequisites, corequisites, restrictions and instructor consent notifications before clicking “submit” to register for courses.

3. The addition of a student “course planning tool.”

4. Implementing an integrated way to view course offerings that allows students to both “Search for Classes” and see the “W&L Course Offering List” at the same time.

Still, some changes students expressed interest in will not occur. For example:

1. For the most part, students will not be able to waitlist for more than one section of the same course at the same time.

2. Students will not be able to see their ranking on a course’s waitlist.

3. Students will not be able to waitlist into sections with open seats.

4. Faculty will not be required to post tentative syllabi before registration.

5. The normal 7:30 a.m. registration time will remain the same, though students did not identify this as a major issue.

As extensive as all of these changes are, they will never alleviate every single issue regarding the registration process, Dittman said. Students will still have to compromise when picking their course loads.

His message to students: “Relax, it’s not worth the stress. Life’s all about choices: registration’s no different.”