Phone registration updated for summer

By Carol Ekstrom

Students taking courses at NIU this summer will be able to try out the new phone registration system.

Administrators are hoping some minor glitches were ironed out after this semester, when students taking off-campus courses were given the first opportunity to use the system.

Director of Registration and Records Richard Durfee said the problem during spring registration occurred when two students simultaneously hung up before the computer ran through the entire program.

“After a student registered for the class they needed, they would hang up although the computer was still explaining billing procedures to them,” he said. “When two students did this at the same time, it caused the system’s phone lines to log up and made it unusable for the next student calling in.”

Durfee said these problems have been resolved by the company who installed the system, Perception Technology of Canton, Mass.

“The company’s contract calls for writing the software for the system. They have now fixed the software to alleviate the problem that occurred during spring registration,” he said.

However, Durfee said if problems do occur, students will be switched to live operators.

“There are four full-time operators employed now, and when we anticipate a busy period we can add up to eight more temporary operators,” he said.

Durfee said he expects over 3,000 students to use the phone registration this summer.

To get students familiarized with the system, he said during the week of March 23, students can call the system and listen to their current spring schedules.

He said as well as helping students, this will allow them to see how the system handles a large influx of calls at one time.

Durfee said the system can handle 64 students simultaneously, but that it is possible to be put on hold. Students have the option to wait or hang up and try again. He said there are no plans to acquire a toll-free number for the system.

The system was originally designed to eliminate late registration, schedule completion and add/drop lines. Durfee said this would eliminate the need for between 60-70 temporary employees who are hired to handle the registration rush.

Assistant Director for Registration and Scheduling Bruce Oates said summer registration will be the first opportunity for the system to handle both on-campus and off-campus courses. As a result, the possibility of phone registration for the fall semester is not definite.

“We are still discussing the use for phone registration for the fall semester; right now it is uncertain,” he said.

Durfee agreed that there are also concerns that need to be looked at before they can commit to the fall semester.

“The NIU telephone switch could overload with this phone system, leaving the DeKalb community without phone service,” he said.

Durfee said he is also concerned about the NIU mainframe computer’s response to a high volume of activity.

“The mainframe has been improved to be able to handle the increased load, but things can still go wrong,” he said.

Durfee said the system went through a testing environment in which over 3,000 simulated situations were called in, but “it is impossible to duplicate every situation that will occur when a student calls in.”