Office of the Registrar, Academic Advising, & Information Technology, Catawba College

Digital Registration With a Human Touch
University Business, April 2012
Catawba College
Program Category: 
Students appreciate that they can register at their convenience and now visit the offices in person only when necessary.

The classic registration scenario of bouncing students from their advisor to select classes, to the Business Office to check for holds, and finally to the Registrar’s Office to stand in line is so 20th century—but hard to escape. Everyone at Catawba College (N.C.) agreed it was time to modernize, but faculty advisors did not want their role in the process diminished or to lose a touch point with students. “Advising is an important part of Catawba’s mission to give every student the personal attention needed to be successful,” shares Joanna Jasper, chief information officer.

As campus leaders were implementing Banner as their new ERP, they knew online registration would be part of the procedure. To maintain integrity in the advising process, they decided to require students to obtain a registration PIN from their advisor.

“We also introduced a new version of Degree Works from SunGard, so when the student and faculty meet, they can document the plan they developed,” she explains. They can refer back to the plan at any time. To ensure students don’t go crazy during the drop/add period, faculty advisors can review any schedule changes made in the past seven days in a special channel in the CatLink portal. Advisors can also set up daily email notifications. The option of having the original registration PIN expire, requiring the student to meet with their advisor to obtain a new one to perform drop/adds, was dismissed as potentially confusing, so the original PIN works all semester.

The new system went live in March 2011 and has been embraced by students, who now visit the offices only when necessary, rather than just to move on to the next step. “Students can register at their convenience, even in their pajamas, some have bragged,” Jasper says. Instead of meeting with every student, advisors, and registrar and bursar’s office staff are freed to focus on the students who really need help. In addition, an estimated 5,000 pages of paper have been saved.

Training and communication were important parts of the transition, Jasper says, along with reviewing the existing processes. “We discovered there are a lot of prerequisites and corequisites that were easy to override on paper,” she cautions. “Basically, we had to review all that; a lot of it was being overridden, so it didn’t make sense to have prerequisites and corequisites because they weren’t being enforced.”

This removes another obstacle between a student and registering for class.