Live course registration, in which students choose classes in real time without delay from the university registrar, is set to replace the current preregistration system beginning in April for fall 2019 course selection.
The change addresses software incompatibilities and shifts away from the costly software customization used to run preregistration each year. Though the new live registration system has not yet been formally announced to students, it has received backlash from several students and was opposed in a 2016 Georgetown University Student Association referendum.
Under the new system, students receive a date and time when they can log into MyAccess to add courses. The registration window will open first for graduate students and then for undergraduate students according to class year, starting with seniors. The system will remain open until the add/drop period of the new semester ends, allowing students to make changes throughout summer or winter break.
The change to a live registration system was prompted by concerns over the future viability of the preregistration software in the face of a mandatory update of Banner, the student information system, according to College Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education Sue Lorenson.
The current iteration of Banner is incompatible with Georgetown’s customized preregistration system, but at significant cost, the university kept preregistration running anyway. That will no longer be possible following the Banner update.
“[T]he version of Banner that Georgetown is currently on, Banner 8, will soon no longer be supported by the parent company, Ellucian. Because the preregistration system is a customization, it will implode when we upgrade to Banner 9, which is on a different, more modern platform than Banner 8,” Lorenson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “And we have to upgrade to Banner 9; if we don’t, the integrity of our entire student information system is in jeopardy.”
The new system will require students to prepare more rigorously, according to College Academic Council President Jacqueline Crispino (COL ’19).
“People have to be ready to look up their classes ahead of time and come with, honestly, way more than their five classes,” Crispino said. “Come maybe with a group of 10 courses they would be willing to take, or a bunch of electives they don’t have to take.”
Under the current preregistration system, schedules are delayed by weeks while the preregistrations are processed by the registrar’s office and students cannot make changes until the Add/Drop period begins. Last fall, preregistration opened Nov. 6 and closed for students in the College on Nov. 15 and on Nov. 18 for all other students. Results were not posted until Dec. 6, 2½ weeks after preregistration closed to all students.
Under the live registration system, students will no longer rank classes by interest to increase their chances of landing a spot in the classes they care about most. Rather, priority will be assigned by seniority, except when departments or professors impose further restrictions.
Academic departments are discussing ways to ensure courses include students from a range of class years and that majors can register for the classes they want, according to Lorenson.
The current preregistration algorithm accounts for class year, major and class request ranking, while the new system would only account for class year, though seats can be set aside for students meeting certain qualifications to complete requirements, Lorenson said.
Students will always be able to get into the courses they need in order to graduate on time, according to Associate Vice President and University Registrar Annamarie Bianco.
The 2016 GUSA referendum on live registration exposed strong opposition to the then-proposal to switch to live registration. Eighty-three percent of respondents supported preregistration, while only 7 percent voted in favor of live registration, according to a report released by GUSA.
“While the current system may be shrouded in behind-the-scenes schedule manipulation that limits process transparency, the referendum results demonstrate that students are more concerned with the prioritization and strategy that pre-registration promotes than they are with the clarity of this process,” the six-page report said.
The 2016 referendum discussed several possible problems with the new system, including the difficulty of assigning priority to varsity athletes or other groups with specific scheduling concerns and the potential inconvenience for students studying abroad in different time zones, who may have to wake up in the middle of the night to register.
The referendum also discussed the difficulty that the time-sensitive element may pose to those with restrictive work or class schedules, and therefore the possibility that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will have less desirable schedules than wealthier students who do not have to work. The report acknowledges, though, that live registration would improve speed and transparency.
Student responses to the change have been mostly negative so far, though most people have not yet heard about the change, according to Crispino.
“Most people who hear about it seem to be against it,” Crispino said. “It’s definitely not the housing lottery. You have more than just a few minutes to choose.”
However, students should not be overly concerned, according to Crispino.
“I think it’s going to be a much easier system once you get past that first rush of students signing up, because you’ll know immediately how many seats are open,” Crispino said. “If you’re on summer break, and you decide you want to switch classes, you can just add something and drop something. So in that way it will be easier.”