Course catalogs taken out of print

By Drew Bonifant

One of the sure signs it’s course registration time is when those little red catalogs begin popping up around campus. If you forgot to mark your calendar, the sight of a group of students hunched over these books is a good reminder that it’s time to plan your future. But this time around, you’d better use your planner.

The Office of the University Registrar has worked to move Northeastern’s registration process completely online, putting an end to the use of paper coursebooks and in favor of an upgraded web-based system.

The registar’s website, registrar.neu.edu, now allows students to search courses according to sequence, professor, time, program and core curriculum, among other options. The site is also updated every day, allowing students to see how many students have registered for a course.

University Registrar Linda Allen said the change aimed to simplify the process and keep students from becoming frustrated with packed courses.

“We’re trying to get students as much information as we could, showing them the empty seats before they register for classes,” Allen said.

Allen emphasized the significance of the seat-number feature, which allows students to see how many seats are left in a course.

“The difference is basically the number of registered students in the section,” Allen said. “Last year, it showed course information, but nothing about seats. Students didn’t know if they were trying to add a course that was already filled.”

Allen also said under the old system there was up to a two-week period between when the school ordered the coursebooks and when they received them, allowing the books to become outdated.

Richard Bjorkman, Northeastern’s publications manager and creator of the website, said the coursebooks were too unreliable for picking classes.

“It was like getting tomorrow’s forecast by looking at last week’s paper,” Bjorkman said. “Coursebooks were a snapshot in time. They represented how the course looked at one moment. We had students walking around with a coursebook that was woefully out of date.”

On the website, each class is listed with a green or red dot next to it, meaning “available” and “filled,” respectively. With the sites updated daily, the availability of the class is now correct as of the end of the previous day.

Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President for Academic Affairs MJ Paradiso said the change will be positive for students as long as they are willing to adapt.

“It has nothing to do with cost,” Paradiso said. “It’s a benefit, but we wanted to make sure students had correct copies for classes. The hardest thing is changing culture, and just convincing students that this is the way we’re headed, that it’s a better service.”

Moving course registration online has become common across the country.

“Once the registrar realized this was not just a national trend, but a necessary one to keep people up to date, we went into making it look the way it does,” Paradiso said.

Despite the improvements, senior history major Nick Washburn isn’t in favor of the change.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of coursebooks,” Washburn said. “Just thinking of students off campus, though it’s rare to not have internet access, there are some that don’t, so it’s a hindrance to put it all online. It’s good that it’s online and that they’re updating it, but I think that for the sake of some students, there should be coursebooks available.”

However, these improvements are just the beginning of the process, Bjorkman said..

“What we’ve done is not meant to be an ultimate long-term situation,” he said. “I hope we have better systems, better infrastructure, to provide better service for the students in the future.”

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