Vassar must hasten digitilization of campus resources

In an age where institutional communication is increasingly located within the digital sphere, we at The Miscellany News would like to see Vassar’s course registration protocol advance accordingly. In this respect, the College’s digital resources are insufficient and too narrow, and we believe the process for adding and dropping courses could be easily streamlined. When a student adds a class, he or she must take a piece of paper to the adviser and the professor, as well as the Registrar’s office. The many advances in efficiency and communication from campus resources like Google Apps and Moodle beg the question: why do such bureaucratic operations remain in print? In these situations, print has little advantage here over its digital counterpart.

The adviser system and Registrar duties would be easy areas to update. The paperwork that remains for these important bureaucratic tasks creates unnecessary delay and headaches for students and faculty alike. Students can attest to having difficulty arranging an in-person consultation with their adviser for a simple request, and the Registrar should not be burdened with straightforward tasks that could easily be accomplished digitally. At peer institutions such as Williams College, students are given the power to amend or rearrange their schedules multiple times without numerous adviser consultations. While this method decreases the amount of personal contact, it allows for a more efficient, paper-free process which allows students more control over their academic experiences.

We would like to acknowledge the importance of one-on-one meetings with advisers of course, and do not want to discount this role in the least bit. However, a PIN system akin to the one used for pre-registration—where a PIN given after an in-person meeting acts in lieu of a signature—would cut out quick, perfunctory meetings. After a quick email exchange for simpler matters, an adviser would only have to email a PIN—perhaps a temporary, expiring one—to authorize the student’s request. It may even be better to allow the advisers a check-box or blank to fill out on their end. Such a PIN would function as an electronic signature.

Additionally, digitization should not be limited to pre-registration. Making the add/drop period an online process is the next logical step. The add/drop period creates unnecessary stress on many a student’s schedule, especially considering the difficulty of scheduling a meeting with the limited hours of most professors. As long as advisers give the green light to their advisees through either in-person or online confirmation, students should be allowed to make changes to their schedules through the web.

The expansion of the student profiles currently accessed with student PIN and ID numbers would further ease these bureaucratic matters. The yellow card system for major declaration has potential for successful digitization, and subsequent addition to the online profile. Students would not have to worry about losing their yellow cards if they also had a digital copy. With an online record of students’ projected courses, advisers and other administrators could easily access this information. The same digitization could benefit the cumbersome process of declaring a double major, which requires a headache-inducing series of paperwork. An expanded profile would provide instant clarity about a student’s position in the College beyond the current information, like the student’s name and their student fellow.

We also lament the lack of a clearly defined campus resource to answer questions new students may have. Knowledge of what, exactly, those building codes on our schedules mean is mysteriously difficult to find. Students are left to fill in the information gap through peer-to-peer interactions or on sites like SayAnythingVassarCollege and Twitter, where information is not always reliable. A centralized FAQ database or resource guide that breaks down student needs by category and question would benefit not only the newcomer freshman, but any unsure student. What is the CRC’s number? Where is the SAVP office? What building is NE? Such necessary facts should not be scattered, inaccessible and potentially out-of-date. The current Admissions website Vassar maintains is not only well-designed, but clearly articulates the various branches and quirks of the College. Surely a site of comparable quality and vigilant upkeep could be easily created for the greater student body.

We also encourage the College and departments to keep their internet resources updated. Department websites often lack important information, and certain professors not comfortable with extensive digitization do not use Moodle to its full capabilities. A syllabus document alone is not an inspired use of Moodle’s capabilities. Perhaps more comprehensive CIS-sponsored Moodle workshops would help to educate professors and encourage them to better use this important, and often vital classroom resource.

Digitalization is an obvious request to make, but it is also a necessary one. The benefits of digitization are so vast that it is best not to belabor the point. The adviser system and Registrar insist upon paperwork, where an internet connection and a few clicks would speed past such hassles. Information that passes by word of mouth or SayAnythingVassarCollege for common questions should exist on a centralized, commonly known repository. And we must not only convert our current analog ways, but also better employ the resources at our disposal. Vassar must take full advantage of Moodle the ability it has to promote discussion beyond the classroom and add audiovisuals. Needs have shifted and widened, and the College—in its various departments, whether it be academic or administrative—must serve these needs.


—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.

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