Spring 2001

Online Registration Inaugurated by Queensborough



igital divide? Not any more, at least on registration days at Queensborough Community College, where the concept of e-registration has just been introduced..

Queensborough thus becomes the first City University campus to offer on-line, Web-based registration for students a new system that also includes electronic options for ordering transcripts, applying for graduation, paying tuition by credit card and more. Students have the additional choice of registering for classes by telephone, though the majority of them have responded eagerly to the web method.

I think this is one giant leap into the future, said Julian Gordon, President of the QCC Student Government. My life, along with that of many other students, has been made that much easier. I now have the opportunity to stay in the convenience of my own home and register for classes without having to stress over the many long lines I would have encountered at the registration arena.

After seven months of planning, efforts to automate QCCs system culminated with the successful registration of some 10,000 students for the spring, 2001 semester. The original plan for a telephone and Web system, however, was first developed at Queens College, along with Frank Solutions Inc. (FSI), a Denver-based company specializing in telephone and Web applications for businesses and government agencies.

Queens invited us to participate in the contract and, after looking at the proposal and speaking with FSI representatives, we concluded that the system would not only benefit our students, but allow us to redirect registration resources to other areas of the College as well.

Having decided to purchase the system, the contractual details were put in order, and we undertook the project with the goal of completing it in time for our Spring 2001 registration.

Our first order of business was to set up a time frame for all the different parts of the project and to determine when each phase had to be completed. This was accomplished using two detailed sets of specifications supplied by FSI, which described the systems logic, the computer and telecommunications equipment, and the scripts the system would use to communicate with our students. The specifications provided the blueprint that guided us through the development of the system.

Next, a plan for working with the staff from FSI was devised and, while they were 2000 miles and two time zones away, we found having bi-weekly conference calls and exchanging information via e-mail and faxes met all our needs.

To move the project along quickly, we limited QCCs team to three people, deciding that the expertise of others would be solicited as the project developed. The real work began by breaking down our registration process into its simplest parts and then comparing them to the logic in the FSI specifications. We used flowcharts extensively during this phase to account for every part of our registration process and revised the FSI logic to conform to our needs.

Next, we tackled the scripts, many of which were already in place because of work done for Queens College. However, we spent a substantial amount of time modifying the scripts to include terms that our students would be familiar with. We focused on how instructions were explained so that they were clear and easy to understand.

FSI handled computer equipment set-up, but we were responsible for installing a T-1 telephone line, which was accomplished under the supervision of our CUNY colleagues knowledgeable in this area. When all these pieces were completed, we entered a testing phase in which we attempted to make the system fail in order to identify potential problems. Aside from a few minor glitches, we were satisfied with the results. Throughout this process, the staff from FSI listened to our input and willingly made modifications we felt were necessary.

While it is too early to calculate precise cost savings, we do know that we are spending less in staffing and are using fewer on-campus resources for registration. The Student Union Building, a facility previously used for this purpose, may now be used during these periods for academic advisement and counseling. Workload also has been reduced, as we no longer have to wire the facility, transport computer terminals, or set up stanchions, ropes and signs. Furthermore, we have no need for registration cards and program change forms, as this information is now automated and held in a database.

Our campaign to educate the college community about the web and telephone registration system started early and continued throughout the project. Articles were printed in every edition of the college newspaper, posters were hung around the campus, and information and instructions were printed in the Schedule of Classes and mailed to students homes.

While our goal was to have students register off campus by using their computers or telephones at home, we also wanted to have resources available on campus to assist students with this new way of registering. Our solution was to equip a Registration Center with 40 new personal computers and staff from the Registrars office to assist those students encountering problems. In this way, the Center could act dually as a place to register and a classroom where students could learn to use the system.

We launched the web registration on November 15th, scheduling 500 students each day during the first week. This number increased as we gained confidence in the system. The web was by far the most popular way of registering. We found that 50% of courses were registered for via the web, 37% through advisors and faculty from their office computers, and the remainder by telephone.

Based on preliminary feedback and comments from students, the project was an overwhelming success. Weve just completed mailing a questionnaire to all students regarding their experiences with the new system, and will use their input to further improve this service.

Online registration introduced to our campus has been tremendous, said Student Government President Gordon. In the old registration arena, she adds, one had to be prepared mentally and physically to deal with hours upon hours of waiting on line; I hated those days! Now I dont have to take time off from work to register. . .Without a shadow of a doubt, [e-registration] has been a great success.