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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Improve course registration

(Courtesy of Getty Images)
A man leaps over hurdles toward a blue graduation cap. Opinion Columnist Olivia Zapf believes students should advocate for the courses they require to graduate to help improve the NIU course registration process. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Every semester, students complain about one of the biggest obstacles known to college students: course registration. Most complaints come from courses not being offered. In the time spent complaining about these difficulties, students could join department groups and tell faculty what classes they want to take. 

It’s no secret that course registration and scheduling are stressful for college students and NIU department chairs. NIU should help its department chairs schedule classes, and students should join the existing department groups to advocate for their academic needs. 

Currently, department chairs are tasked with balancing the needs of doctoral students, undergraduate students and faculty preferences. NIU should create a system to help department chairs work through these diverse and complex requirements. 

Alicia Schatteman, NIU’s vice provost for Academic Affairs, explained the difference between what faculty members and administrative members experience when it comes to choosing class times. 

Faculty generally understand that students want classes between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, there are greater variables to be considered as an administrator when it comes to time. 

“The systems are built across NIU and they’re really based on particular deadlines,” Schatteman said. “So to make sure that we open for student registration on a certain date each semester, a couple of months before that, departments go in and they enter all of their course information, sections, all of the things, and then they’re assigned rooms by another group of folks. Backing up a little bit further than that, the chairs and departments and their faculty, they would discuss what courses they need to offer based on their majors.” 

While students are often concerned with their individual education, faculty develop course selections based on a variety of needs, including those of undergraduate students, graduate students, professor preferences and graduate teaching assistantships. 

One way to combat the issue of students not feeling like their academic needs are being met is to get involved with department student groups, Schatteman said. 

Most departments, including chemistry and history, have student groups that talk with faculty and help the student-faculty relationship improve, especially on important topics like course scheduling. 

By advocating for themselves, students can promote their interests to the faculty. Department chairs mostly determine the mode of instruction and times that classes are scheduled. 

Students may be able to influence course selections. If students do not advocate for themselves, significant change will not occur. The complexity of course selection makes alterations to the process difficult, especially if no one is advocating for it. 

Professors have a closer relationship with department chairs than students and are able to note their preferences to them. Schatteman explained that professors are hired for their background and expertise, which can impact course selection. 

“So we have a research methods class, so no one oversees the research methods class, that’s a shared class. So each of us might take a turn to teach research methods because we all can teach research methods,” Schatteman said. “So that would rotate among the faculty, but you would definitely have some courses where it’s in your individual background that that would be your expertise area.” 

Shared classes and expertise-based classes are beneficial, both to faculty and students. Creating new opportunities for course selections can help faculty change their schedules and fit their preferences, while giving students more options to take the class based on the professor. 

Students should take into consideration the multitude of needs that administrators and faculty are catering to. Conversely, faculty must consider the students.

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