The Degree Navigator Class Registration System

They kinda look like the Azores.

With the one-year anniversary of my college graduation taking place on May 16th, I figured I’d write something about my college experience, something that the few of you who read this that went to Ithaca would be able to relate to and feel nostalgic about. I decided early however, that I wasn’t just going to do a review on my college experience, as that would seem too “Dear Diary” for me. I wasn’t going to complain about the “food” in the Campus Center Dining hall ad nauseum, because I’m sure that’s been done to death… and most people move off campus or to the Circle Apartments and don’t deal with the “Double C” for their last year or two. I wasn’t going to complain about the curriculum, mostly because those issues have been dealt with, starting with the class after me, and they’re much better off for it. Lastly, I wasn’t going to offer warm and fuzzy memories of how great all my friends were, the teachers were, the facilities were, and my extracurricular opportunities and the semester in L.A. were.

What else could there be to complain about/praise? Well if you haven’t guessed by reading the title, I’ll put it bluntly: The method of registering for classes that we used.

Let me preface this all by saying that before computers were used, I have absolutely no idea how a class registration system could be fair. I can assume that people wrote down on a piece of paper the classes that they needed, and the classes that they wanted and turned it in and waited for the results… sort’ve like in high school, where your guidance counselor spent 25 minutes convincing you to take a bunch of extra classes that you didn’t come in wanting, (of course, taking some time out in the middle of the meeting to take a call from his real estate side-job) only to find that when your schedule arrived weeks later, you weren’t enrolled in any of the classes anyway. Maybe that was just me. But by handing in forms that said what you wanted your schedule to look like, how were students to be guaranteed that those were the classes they were going to get? What if classes were filled? What if new sections that students were switched into conflicted with other classes the student wanted to take? How did the administration decide what order to take individual registrations? Obviously by credit amount, but what about students who were at the same grade level, with the same amount of credits?

island” view, which conveniently showed you what your different requirements were (as in communications, non-comm, liberal arts [a phrase whose meaning still eludes me], and the various requirements within each major) shown in the form of colorful islands floating on a bright blue background. When you rolled your mouse over them, it showed what you had completed and what you were still required to take. I believe that those might’ve been shown in pie chart form, but I could be wrong.

You would go to the registrar’s website, and there would be a link to register for classes. Clicking on it would open the application, as sort’ve an advanced pop-up window with forms. This was the degree navigator. You’d go over to the selection tab, type the course number into the spot for it, and hit enter. The course description and section times would come up, and you were allowed to add the classes to your schedule. You would then have to go over to the side where all the selected classes were and individually finalize the registration for each class. If there were island” thing, which was more for telling you what classes you had done and what you needed to do, rather than for registering.

The problem was in the actual method by which the whole student body was meant to register. It happened during the course of a week and a half every semester. A different group registered every day, starting with students in the honors program (i don’t know that i ever met any of them), then freshmen, then seniors (yes freshmen got to register before seniors), juniors, and sophomores… of course all of those were divided up into first and second semester students, via credits. So each day of registering saw students within about a 12-18 credit window signing up at the same time. Not too huge of a problem. We weren’t a terribly large school, so it wasn’t like there were more than a few thousand people registering per day. There was no breakdown however, within each day, and so you had a couple thousand people trying to get on the system at the exact same time. That shouldn’t’ve been a problem… after all, there’s at least four times that amount that use the internet at one time, any other time of day or year. The problem however, was that our residential computer network was incredibly unstable to begin with (blamed by the people in charge on the proliferation of computer viruses on the network…. cause I’m sure that other schools don’t have to deal with viruses, and they manage to be epic disaster. The residential network just couldn’t handle the sheer number of people attempting to log on (if you managed to open the program prior to the start time you could open the application, just not log on to actually register). And of course rather than just telling us that we couldn’t be logged on because something somewhere along the line was too busy, it just kept trying to log everyone on. Of course, in the best possible scenario of it not working, the program froze. In the worst, it caused people’s computers to crash, freeze, and quite possibly be thrown out of windows in fits of frustration.

In fact, only serving to exacerbate things more was the registration time. Because classes started at 8 a.m., and the people in charge wanted to make sure that everyone had the same opportunity to get to classes before the seats were filled, the registration window opened at the extremely early 7 a.m. That’s right. Imagine thousands of frustrated college students pissed off at the idea of being shut out of classes and screwed over by the system, dealing with a program that isn’t going to work correctly, having to reboot their computer numerous times, and on top of that, having to get up before 7. At least we had the opportunity to register from the comfort of our own computers, if we could ever get this demon program to operate correctly.

The worst year that I remember was the second semester of my freshman year, registering for sophomore year. It was early April probably, and it was also probably really cold and rainy outside. I just remember sitting at my computer, my comforter draped over me, waiting, complaining to neighbors across the hall and next door. I sat there, knowing I was going to miss my 8 a.m. class. Everyone that I had recently added to my AIM buddy list was in the same boat as I was. People had away messages up about how much they hated the degree navigator, how they wished it would die, and how they were so tired and pissed off in general. Having just gone through a phase of creating new screennames and harrassing people with them, I saw this as an opportunity to pose as the Degree Navigator through IM, asking people why they hated me so much. I was THAT bored and pissed off. People who managed to log on were offering to register other people for classes via phone, but others were skeptical about giving out their registration password for fear that their schedule might be tampered with. It wasn’t until 10:15 that I was able to log on and register, making me late for my 10:25 class. Of course, I got the bottom of the barrel when it came to classes that weren’t course requirements. I can’t remember what I had, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t anywhere near what I had in mind the night before.

The following semesters were much of the same, but not taking as long, as more people in my class (year) decided to move off campus, or use the computer labs, which were on a different network, to do their registration. Knowing that I’d probably have to wait in line to use a computer for as long as it would actually take me to register from my room, and not wanting to get dressed at 6:50, and instead go back to bed when I was done, I decided for next few semesters to just ride out the storm in my room. Unlike the people in New Orleans, my decision wasn’t really all that detrimental to my health. Sure it took forever to get logged on, but none of the future attempts took more than an hour. Still, the away messages were up, the people were complaining across the hall, and there was a feeling of bonding.

Without a popular sports team to rally behind (save the one game a year where the entire school went crazy for the football team, mostly because it was an excuse to get drunk at 8 a.m.), or, fortunately, some tragic event that effected everyone at the school (save the September 11th stuff), the universal hatred of the degree navigator registration system brought everyone together. In fact, I’d wager that had somebody decided to sell T-shirts that said “I survived Registration ’02”, they’d probably make enough money for the school to fix the actual problem. To prove my point even more, I typed in “Degree Navigator”+sucks in google, and these are the first two pages it came up with: here and here.

Of course, what this 7 a.m. east coast egistration time meant for me when I was in L.A. was that I had to register at 4 a.m. Pacific Time….and we didn’t have the internet in our apartment. I’m not sure how we got around that, but I know I didn’t walk 3 blocks at 4 a.m. to register at the Ithaca L.A. student center.

The Degree Navigator was a good system in theory, but they say the same thing about communism. There were bigger problems that everyone pretty much blamed on the Navigator, giving it a bad rap.

The Degree Navigator program itself gets three and a half stars. It was mostly easy to navigate, and I’m sure it was a bit more fair and, yes, less of a hassle, than however they did it before it was done by computer. It was pretty much the scapegoat for the entire student body’s issues with registration, and served to bring them together with something unified to complain about.

The actual process of class registration gets one star for not having the foresight to see, especially after it happened numerous times before, that the network would get log-jammed by allowing so many people on at once; for not allowing people to get into classes that they needed; and for intruding on the sleep of thousands of students who schedule their earliest class at 11 a.m. for a reason.

4 Replies to “The Degree Navigator Class Registration System”

  1. Now that’s a review. I especially liked the Hurricane Katrina joke. No, it’s not too soon.

  2. Totally overrated the system. It was ugly and it looked like something out of the 1980s. And thank you for bringing this back up. I had successfully repressed the horrible memories of registering for classes and it’s all coming back to me now. I hate Degree Navigator and I hate you!

  3. Now that’s a comment! I’m glad someone who didn’t go to school in the midwest has decided to chip in on this site of ours. In the meantime, I hate you too matt. Cheers!

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