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Students express frustration with registration

by Karen Morales / Beacon Correspondent • November 29, 2012

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Students were locked out of ecommon during registration.
Students were locked out of ecommon during registration.

Students experienced a variety of issues registering for their spring courses last week, especially those in the marketing communication and visual and media arts departments. 

Some students said they were prevented from registering for required courses, prompting the administration to add additional sections or loosen enrollment requirements. Other students said they experienced problems logging into their eCommon accounts.

When senior marketing communication major Maria Alejandra Vega initially attempted to register for the capstone course Campaign Planning, she said found that all the seats were taken. 

“Registration overall is always a stressful deal,” she said in an email interview, “but this year was even more due to the fact that it was my last [registration].”

Other junior marketing communication students ran into a similar problem as seats for 300-level courses were not available. The marketing communication department addressed this issue by allowing juniors who had taken at least two 300-level courses to enroll in three 400-level courses that were previously only available to seniors or juniors who had previously taken three 300-level courses, according to an email sent by Tess Fallon, associate to the chair, to marketing communication students.

“What gets filled up varies by year, by number of course offerings, and by student groups,” said Donald Hurwitz, interim chair of the marketing communication department. “This year, the pressure point tended to be in the 300-level courses.”

Vega was later able to get into the class she wanted.

“After a few days of talking to Tess Fallon and Anne Doyle [the executive director of academic administrations], they finally resolved my problem,” said Vega. “I found the department to be extremely understanding and helpful with my situation.”

The marketing communication department introduced a new curriculum with significant changes in 2011, and students who enrolled in Emerson prior to that can still take courses from the previous version. The transition between curriculums can take three or four years, said Hurwitz.

“That’s why we are slowly phasing in the new curriculum and slowly phasing out the old curriculum,” said Hurwitz.

To understand which courses are most popular, the department, with the approval of the office of academic affairs, has implemented a waitlist system, according to Hurwitz. In an email sent to marketing communication students, Fallon said waitlists will provide an idea of student demand for certain courses.

The waitlist procedure was originally only going to be tested this registration cycle with three visual and media arts (VMA) courses — Introduction to Film Production, Editing for Film and Video, and Basic Cinematography and Videography— according to Associate Registrar Sarah Miles.

“The reason why we didn’t go live with this from the very beginning was because we wanted to make sure that registration worked [with the system],” said Miles, explaining that Banner, a program that complies all student information and history, went live in 2009 and was upgraded in 2010. “But we are now confident in the way the system works with basic registration functions.”

She said the VMA department specifically requested a waitlist for courses that were consistently filled quickly, leaving students without seats.

Administrators have not yet decided if the waitlist system will be expanded to other academic departments.

“It’s too early to tell,” said Doyle, “but I do plan to bring this to the next meeting of the [department] chairs and deans for their thoughts.”

Chloe Pisello, a sophomore VMA major, said that only three sections of Writing for TV were available during her registration day, despite it being a required class for students of her major.

“If a course is named after the student’s [concentration], it shouldn’t be this hard for them to take that class,” Pisello said.

Visual and media arts is the largest major offered at the college, according to Colleen Kelly, coordinator of VMA academic services. 

“More and more students are being accepted into our department each year — perhaps more than the department can reasonably handle,” she said in an email to the Beacon.

Kelly said that the VMA department added a new section of Intermediate Film Production, and is attempting to add new sections of Media Criticism and Theory, Writing for Television, and Introduction to Studio TV Production.

“We cannot simply add sections of a class,” she said. “We have to hire people to teach these courses.”

eCommon account lockouts undermined some students’ chances of snagging spots in their desired courses. Lockouts occur when the server prohibits users from logging in after too many failed login attempts.

Andy Schlebecker, a sophomore visual and media arts major, said that eCommon asked for both his alternate PIN — unique codes that students need to register for courses — and ID number as he attempted to log in.

He said that despite entering the correct PIN and ID number required to enter, the server did not log him in, and after several tries, the server interpreted his failed logins as a hacking attempt and locked the account. He said he called the IT desk, who advised him to fix the problem by opening a different browser, but by the time he did so all 12 of his desired classes were filled.

Bret Kulakovich, interim director of technical support services, said that the IT help desk only received a handful of calls regarding eCommon lockouts on most days during registration.