CWRU needs to improve transparency in class registration

Caroline Kuntzman, Staff Writer

Undergraduate class registration at Case Western Reserve University began on Monday Nov. 14, with students set to graduate next spring and summer able to enroll in courses on the Student Information System (SIS). Class registration at CWRU is well organized and designed to ensure that graduating students will most likely get the classes they need. That said, it also presents significant limitations regarding the information available to students before they start enrolling in classes. Furthermore, the reality of unpredictable course offerings can make it difficult for any student to build a four-year plan to ensure that they graduate.

CWRU’s course registration system uses a seniority-based system—the students closest to graduating are the first to gain access to the system and then the other students get access to it, with first-years being the last to have the opportunity to sign up for classes. While a seemingly unfair system, it protects students who want to graduate the next semester from failing to do so due to inability to enroll in their required classes—such as physical education courses. So, the overarching concept of the class registration system should be maintained to ensure that seniors can meet graduation requirements.

The major problem with the existing class registration system lies in its failure to provide students with useful information about the classes they want to enroll prior to registering for them. This semester, a considerable amount of classes don’t have locations assigned to them. From history to biology to nursing courses, there are a significant number of classes where the location is listed as “To Be Scheduled (In-Person)”. Some schools within the university, such as the Weatherhead School of Management and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, appear to have listed more courses with assigned classrooms than other schools—so some students will be aware of where their classes will be taught before registration. It should be acknowledged that certain students can predict what buildings their classes will be in, because some departments have the majority of their classes on the same quad. However, as someone who has an English course in the Bingham Building—which largely houses civil engineering classes, I can say that class location is not always apparent or predictable. For students intending to enroll in back-to-back classes, it is important to estimate how much time it will take to go from class to class. It would be helpful for SIS to feature this information so students may build ideal and feasible schedules.

Another area where CWRU’s class registration system falls short is that it often fails to list the instructors for all of the classes prior to registration. CWRU makes course evaluations available for students to view with the stated purpose of helping them “choose the courses that will best meet their academic interests and needs.” Two faculty members will teach the same class differently, so viewing evaluations can help students make informed decisions about specific classes and sections before registration.

The irregularity with which some departments teach courses can also present challenges for students making plans to graduate. While departments offer the required core classes more regularly, elective course offerings can be highly irregular. SIS does display when the class was previously offered, which can help students predict when it might be offered again. However, if it was more clear how often any given course would be offered or if departments were more consistent, it would be easier for students to plan what they want to take. This is not to say that departments should stop offering new courses or should be obligated to provide the same electives every semester—but the unpredictability of elective offerings can make it difficult for students to balance required classes and preferred electives. There should just be more information available for students.

CWRU’s course registration process is good because it ensures that seniors can enroll in the classes they need to graduate; even so, it fails to provide information that helps students make informed decisions about their long-term graduation plans. Striving to ensure that classes have locations, instructors and an indicator of when they could be offered next would help students navigate the course registration process with more confidence.