At around the time this editorial is published, 50 percent of the first-year class will wake up, frantically click mice for a few seconds, either smile or sigh and then roll back into bed. That, of course, can only mean one thing: registration season is upon us. Students are rushing to schedule meetings with advisers, plot out contingency plans for next semester’s classes and find ways to fill out elusive Trinity requirements before graduation. Many of them have likely recently remembered that although the dawn of a new semester can be exciting, registration on DukeHub/ACES — the window to the future— can be unnecessarily frustrating. Although the service was recently revamped, there are still parts of it that need work. With their correction, registration could be a time of year students look forward to with enthusiasm, rather than a time characterized by the strenuous process of digging through classes blindly and hoping for the best.
Once bookbagging opens, students spend weeks searching through hundreds of class offerings for the next semester before racing for spot on rosters. And although the short stock descriptions given to classes on ACES might be interesting enough to catch their eyes, they are seldom descriptive enough to give true insight into what the course will be like. There is an easy remedy for that: mandate the posting of synopses for every class listed on ACES. Synopses require little effort on the part of professors, but offer large benefits for students, allowing them to judge the workload and content of classes and enroll in courses best suited to their schedules.
Class synopses do not always tell a whole story though; that is why we have professor and course evaluations. Unfortunately, they are lacking. As it stands, professors can opt in and out of posting student evaluations on ACES, allowing for obfuscation of ratings. That defeats the purpose of the evaluations and ought to be changed. Additionally, although the evaluations are hosted through Tableau, a service known for its data analysis power, the university makes little use of it. Instead of offering students a dry handful of five-point rating scales like it does now, it could instead show graphs, visualized data and class comparisons charts to students that would allow them to make more sense of the numbers. Numbers are, of course, not enough though. Students crave qualitative reviews of courses, which explains the popularity of websites like Rate My Professors. But reviews on third-party services are often sparse. Duke should seize the initiative and fold qualitative reviews into course evaluations, making them visible for future students.
After implementing such easy improvements, Duke should seek to innovate and strike new ground: as students reach the end of their time at the university, many are concerned with fulfilling the laundry basket of Trinity requirements required to graduate. The task of finding needed courses is often unnecessarily difficult because their tags are inconsistent. Certain classes with similar material are often given different tags, and many, none. Students ought to be given a process for petitioning for the assignment of Trinity tags to courses in ACES in order to make the system more consistent and easy to manage.
Issues with the registration are all the more frustrating because they can be remedied so easily. Registering for classes is the gateway to every semester at Duke; the process that can set the tone and trajectory for an entire term. It also can carry a lot of headache for students in its current form. The resources for making registration more streamlined and efficient are at the university’s disposal and should be utilized. The changes aren’t complicated or difficult, but they have the potential to make a huge impact.
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