February 26, 2015

Registration frustration

The current registration system does not provide students with enough information to make an educated decision about classes.

Course registration ends today at 5 p.m., bringing an end to another cycle of uncertainty. Each quarter time schedules are released unannounced during seventh week in preparation for bidding during eighth week. This gives students roughly two weeks to pore over their options before they choose their courses for the next quarter. But during this time, some classes do not even have any course descriptions or instructors listed, and most don’t include reading lists. The call for reforming course registration is not new. Over the years, The Maroon has written editorials on fixing the course registration process many times. All of these editorials point to the general lack of information available to students during registration. They also highlight the fact that these concerns have remained unaddressed for many years. The Editorial Board suggests that the University release courses earlier in the quarter and require instructors to provide syllabi for their classes on classes.uchicago.edu. In the fast-paced quarter system, where there is little time at the beginning of the quarter to adjust your classes, students need detailed materials to make educated choices on their courses from the outset.

Often, the first class of the quarter is a student’s first opportunity to see the syllabus and the reading list and to gain an idea of the expected workload. If, in light of this information, a student decides against a course, they only have until the end of first week to find a new one. If a student is unable to find and successfully add another course, they must either drop the unwanted course or tough it out for the rest of the quarter. The University should address this problem by making syllabi available during pre registration. Many of the courses offered each quarter have been offered for many years—meaning that their reading lists and syllabi already exist. Making them available during preregistration is a relatively small investment when compared to the potential gains for students.

When bidding for classes students also need to consider the financial investment that a class requires. This information is rarely—if ever—provided during course registration, but can be a serious burden to students. Finding out that a class requires several expensive books from which only short passages are required reading is a consistently frustrating experience. Releasing reading lists earlier would give students more options when it comes to buying books at more affordable prices—especially when it is not unusual for a class to assign reading for its first session.

Finally, the pressure to finalize course schedules during the first week of the quarter would be relieved if students were given more time during the previous quarter to make more informed decisions about which courses to take. As it stands, students have roughly two weeks to decide which classes to take, and those two weeks come at one of the most hectic times of the quarter, when many students are still finishing midterms or beginning to prepare for finals. The easiest way for the University to improve the bidding experience for students would be to give them more time to choose their classes.

Over many years the conclusion has been the same: Students need both more time and more information when choosing their courses. These are not unreasonable demands. It is about time they were met.

—The Maroon Editoral Board