Registration changes met with student hesitation

Students are nervous about losing Pick 1, but university says newer technology was necessary

Grace Mamon

At the end of March, Washington and Lee students will register for Fall 2022 courses, like they always do. But this time, there is a big change in the process: the platform.

Washington and Lee has been using Ellucian Self-Service, a tool for registering and monitoring student progress, since 1981, when the product was deployed. 

But in February, the university announced that Self-Service would be replaced by Workday, a software that the school began using in October 2020 for human resource and financial purposes.

An internal assessment conducted in 2017 sparked this shift. The assessment captured campus feedback “in response to ongoing complaints from campus members regarding Ellucian-related usability and technical issues,” said Associate Provost Paul Youngman. 

Some students are anxious or uncertain about the new platform – partially because registration is often stressful for many students already.

When students registered for Spring Term courses at the beginning of February, many sophomores were unable to find a seat in any class. The university’s registrar office had to add additional seats and courses and extend the registration window.

So, learning how to use a different platform seems like just another difficulty to many students.

“It’s a little bit annoying that we’re going to have to use a new system,” said Grace Stricklin, ’23. “But hopefully it’ll be really easy to use. We’ll see, I guess.”

Neissa Usanase, ’24, like many other students, said she’s used Workday to get paid for her work study. But she said she’s unsure about using it for registration.

“I’m not sure what to expect or what I’m supposed to do for registration,” Usanase said. 

Despite student hesitation about Workday, Ellucian’s product was far from perfect, according to Associate Provost Paul Youngman.

Deployed in 1981, Ellucian is an outdated product, and its age makes new features either useless or very hard to use, Youngman said. It’s also expensive to maintain and labor-intensive, and it lacks important modern capabilities and features.

“The current system is inadequate in every sense and does not meet, nor support, the expectations and demands of the community,” Youngman said. “It is in dire need of replacement.”

In contrast, Workday meets the university’s requirements for a software that centralizes all human resources, finance, and student information functionality.

“[Workday] is viewed as intuitive, easy to access, mobile-friendly across multiple platforms and easy to maintain,” Youngman said.

Still, many students are meeting this change with hesitation because it does away with the “Pick 1, Pick 3” registration format that they are used to.

In the past, each class year had two days of registration. In the evening of the first day, students would pick one class to register for first.

This was often a priority decision – students would use their Pick 1 for a competitive class or something they had to take during that semester.

The next morning, students would register for their three remaining classes, which were usually lower priority.

With the switch to Workday, Pick 1 and Pick 3 have been “retired,” according to a March 4 email from the registrar’s office.

Workday only allows for one registration appointment per student,” the email said. “All seniors will register for all courses at the same time, then juniors, and so forth.”

This is a big change to the registration thought process.

“I’m really nervous about Pick 1 being taken away because I’m an econ major, and our classes are really hard to get,” Shelby Miller, ’24, said. “Now I don’t have as much confidence that I’m going to finish my major in time.”

Other students echoed this sentiment.

“Pick 1 really gave us the ability to choose our top class that we were pretty much guaranteed to get, and I’m disappointed that we won’t have that in the future,” said Sarah Clark, ’23.

Winter Ashely, ’25, also said she was disappointed with this change.

“A lot of the majors require a specific track of classes, and in order to do your major on time, you have to complete those classes during specific semesters,” Ashley said. “And without Pick 1 there’s no guarantee that I’ll get into any class I need.”

Some of these concerns might be remedied by Workday’s reserved capacity feature.

“On a predetermined basis, reserve capacity functionality allows seats to be allotted for select ‘cohorts’ of students – such as students with particular class standings or students who are declared in certain programs of study,” the March 4 email said. 

In Self-Service, available seats were adjusted manually for each round of Pick 1 to only allow a certain number of students by class year, major or minor to enroll.

“Reserved capacity accomplishes the same thing from the onset,” Youngman said. “Students will see what the reserved capacities are during the schedule planning phase, which is more transparent for students.”

Many students already use Workday to get paid for their work study job or manage a club’s expenditures and revenue. But using Workday to register for classes is a new feature – one of several.

“Moving from Self-Service to Workday is part of a much larger effort to refresh the underlying software that manages critical services throughout the university,” said Youngman.

There are three scheduled releases for Workday functions this year.

The first, which launched after students returned from February Break, included functionality around advising, registration and student onboarding, Youngman said.

The second will be in July and include student financials, like billing and invoicing. The final release will be in October and include grading, commencement and transcript functionality.

To make the current registration shift smoother, the registrar’s office has provided training resources and will be hosting question and feedback sessions in the dining hall on non-registration days during registration week, which begins March 22 for undergraduates and March 28 for law students.

The feedback sessions are scheduled for March 21, 23, 25 and 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Law students can visit the Law Records Office, room 412, in Sydney-Lewis Hall from March 28-31 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. as well.