While enrolling in classes for next semester last Thursday, junior Emily Lap ran into a problem that is all too familiar for many University of Massachusetts students.
“Before my registration time opened, I planned out my perfect schedule,” said Lap, a biology major. Her appointment was scheduled for 5:30 that evening, but by 10 that morning, one of the upper-level biology classes that she had planned on taking was already full.
Lap said she spent the next few hours in the library, trying to rework her entire schedule on SPIRE – the University’s content management system – to meet the requirements for her major, while also keeping Fridays free. She thought she was all set, but when her registration time came, Lap found out that one of the classes she’d chosen was only available to students in RAPs – Residential Academic Programs, which are offered to freshmen in some residence halls.
“It was frustrating,” she said.
At the registrar’s office, preparation for the enrollment period begins one year in advance when departments submit their course proposals, according to University Registrar John Lenzi. Student advising holds – which notify students of incomplete tasks that may prevent them from registering – have to be put on accounts before pre-registration begins, he noted. The office also has to make sure that appointment schedules are built.
According to Lenzi, the most common issue that the registrar’s office runs into during the registration period is when students with holds on their accounts wait until the last minute to resolve them. Lenzi said that this results in a “flurry of activity” and last-minute scrambles.
The office also occasionally receives complaints from students trying to sort out conflicting class times, Lenzi said. Students often wish to enroll in two courses that meet at the same time; Lenzi said that this is something the registrar’s office can’t do anything to resolve. However, he said that for the most part, “students are pretty reasonable in trying to plan their schedules.”
Han Cho, a sophomore biochemistry major, has been through the class enrollment process three times at UMass.
“SPIRE makes it difficult, especially with the restrictions,” Cho said.
Cho, who is trying to transfer to a different school for next year, said that some of the universities he is applying to will not see him as an applicant unless he has taken a public speaking course. At UMass, the course is open to communication majors only, and Cho has not been able to enroll, even after speaking to the department.
Not everyone, though, takes issue with the restrictions placed on some courses on SPIRE.
“I like the restrictions,” said Alex Zamarro, a sophomore economics major. He said he thinks that they’re beneficial because they help him secure a spot in courses required for his major.
But Zamarro said that there is one thing about SPIRE that he doesn’t like – its navigation abilities.
He said that he likes a lot of the features offered through it, such as the “Shopping Cart” tool for course enrollment, but he finds the system as a whole difficult to maneuver.
But despite what may be popular belief among some, the SPIRE system has not failed due to increased student use around registration time in many years, according to Lenzi.
“(That’s) basically an urban legend,” he said. He added that there was a problem with a firewall during the beginning of the fall term, but not with SPIRE itself.
Lenzi said that the registrar’s office uses strict monitoring and adheres to internal deadlines to ensure that the course enrollment period goes as smoothly as possible.
He said that the only change taking place with registration this year pertains to students wishing to take a course for the third time. If that course is not automatically set up in SPIRE as a repeatable course, an error message will pop up telling students that they must see their academic dean for permission to repeat the class.
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