Graphic-Newsletter of UH Community


Infobit Logo - Link to home page 

Link to previous articleLink to next article

"...we grant you the right of making constitutions and ordinances regulating the manner and time of lectures and disputations, the costume to be worn, the burial of the dead; and also concerning the bachelors who are to lecture and at what hours, and on what they are to lecture; and concerning the prices of the lodging or the interdiction of the same; and concerning a fit punishment for those who violate your constitutions or ordinances, by exclusion from your society." Statutes of Pope Gregory IX for the University of Paris, 1231

(or maybe just a bit later...)

David Robb
UHM Director of Admissions and Records
Historians note that shortly after Pope Gregory IX gave the University of Paris permission to organize itself, it immediately employed a "beadle,"( referred to as a "common servant of the scholars") who, on behalf of the proctors, collected money and enforced university rules. This appears to be the genesis of the modern registrar, people like me, the head "beadles," now ably supported by a staff of technicians and service representatives. Those of us in the records and registration trade still schedule classes and final exams, and inform students who is teaching what and when. We don’t dictate the costume to be worn, but we can certainly influence it, depending on whether or not we schedule a class into an air-conditioned room. We don’t bury students anymore, although there remains a rather detailed set of record transactions that are unfailingly performed on behalf of students who die while enrolled.

Much of what the Admissions and Records Office does here at Manoa is common to modern American universities. In European universities a student makes his or her living arrangements in a college; meets regularly with a tutor, who organizes a lengthy three year directed reading course; attends optional lectures; and sits for big comprehensive, "make it or break it," examinations which are administered periodically over the student’s entire course of study. In the U.S., we award degrees based on a combination of achievement and "seat-time," all of which must be counted, graded, and averaged.

Consequently, the registration process at American colleges and universities is designed to serve two inter-related needs: 1) the need of each admitted student to select relevant courses, in a proper sequence, at an appropriate time, and 2) the administrative need of the university to manage its instructional resources, create and maintain student records, collect tuition and fees, and accomplish a host of other managerial tasks associated with the administration of an educational institution.

Typically, these needs are addressed in a three-part registration process:

Scheduling encompasses a variety of administrative tasks including classroom allocation, class scheduling (now sometimes referred to as "event" scheduling), and faculty teaching assignment. Generally, attempts are made to schedule classes according to student demand as measured by historical enrollment data or through a "pre-registration" assessment of student enrollment preferences.

Student Registration
Student registration is usually accomplished over some period of days just prior to the beginning of the instructional term. Students select the classes they wish to attend, provide the institution with a variety of information used to create administrative records, and pay their tuition and fees. For a limited period, students are allowed to change their courses. As the registration period is one time when many students are gathered together at a single location, other activities of interest to students are conducted, i.e., health checks, parking permits, textbook purchases, and recruiting for co-curricular activities.

Data Entry
During and after student registration, all data generated must be captured, organized, and filed. This data provides the institution with student descriptive data, enrollment profiles, class lists, and information that will be used later for grade processing, graduation audits, and certifying student eligibility for financial aid, veterans benefits, etc.

Modern registration practices, as we would recognize them, evolved at the end of the Second World War, as veterans on the G.I. Bill swelled college enrollments. I suspect that modern university registration is heavily indebted to military induction routines, which quickly processed thousands upon thousands of young men from civilian to military life.

In registrar jargon, this collegiate form of mass processing came to be known as "arena" registration. Students were asked to report to a large arena like facility where, in supermarket fashion, they shopped for desired courses and schedules, completed a variety of forms, and "checked-out" their choices in a cashiering line. Like a supermarket, the system allows total freedom of choice within available options and, occasionally, as with any high demand grocery item, the "shelves" are emptied of courses. As it is impossible to register all students simultaneously, each student’s access to registration is sequenced in some order or another. This fact, inevitably, increases a student’s perception that he or she is in competition with other students for available seats in classes. This air of competition (underscored by a nagging sense that the system is fundamentally unfair) accounts for much of student registration behavior.

As ballooning student enrollments increased the volume of registration transactions (beginning in the 1960s), registrars sought to reduce the possibility of error by routinizing and mechanizing registration. This approach was intended to address the administrative need for accuracy and efficiency while offering students a process that was simplified, readily understandable, and reliable. Such systems relied on a high degree of redundancy which, over time, provoked student hostility toward a process that they perceived to be impersonal and bureaucratic.

I first registered as a UH freshman in fall 1964. We got our course approvals and picked up our computer punch cards (one per course) in the Hemenway Hall lounge (which was the entire second floor) from tables staffed by departmental representatives. From there, we walked to Sinclair Library, handed in our computer course cards, and paid our tuition (which was all of $85) to cashiers that were lined up in what is now the reserve reading room.

In the following year, the entire process was relocated to Klum Gymnasium, where it remained until 1986. In many ways, 1986 was a "watershed" year for registration technology at Manoa. Prior to that year, arena registration provided for a massive consolidation of registration related resources that allowed the university to register its entire student body in a matter of 3-4 days. 1986 saw the installation of the Integrated Student Information System (ISIS). What was revolutionary about ISIS (and other databases of its generation) was that information could be entered directly into the system by individuals sitting at terminals. (Goodbye to computer punch cards!) This on-line data entry did two things: 1) it made registration increasingly inefficient for over a decade, but 2) it opened a conceptual door that would ultimately result in students directly inputting their registration transactions into University databases.

On-line registration was highly inefficient for a variety of reasons. 1) Registration resources (such as advising and course approvals) were no longer consolidated in the "arena" but were dispersed back to departments, forcing students to conduct their pre-registration tasks by running back and forth across campus. 2) Students then lined up outside Building 37 (now ITS) where they waited their turn to sit down with one of twenty terminal operators, who keyed in the necessary registration transactions in real time (the student’s real time). 3) As there were only twenty terminal operators, who took an average of 3-10 minutes per student, the total elapsed time required to conduct registration for the entire student body lengthened from 3-4 days to 2-3 weeks.

The positive breakthrough inherent in on-line data entry was the realization that, given a simplified set of registration rules and procedures, anyone could enter registration transactions. All that was required was a "user-friendly" interface (something ISIS was/is not noted for) and a commonly available piece of technology that could serve as a keyboard (like a telephone). Manoa’s administrative computing organization (then the Management Systems Office) had purchased a telephone registration schematic by the early 1990s, but registration administrators were reluctant to implement the system because of difficulty in customizing the software to suit Mänoa’s needs and fears about the stability of the ISIS database. Several years later, Summer Session computer staff began work on a telephone registration system that, once developed, could be pilot tested in relative isolation on summer school registration. Needless to say, the system (PAE) worked and was quickly adapted for use during regular fall and spring registration. In spite of its late entry into the telephone registration "arena", UH innovations (such as real time credit card tuition payment processing) quickly propelled us into the forefront of "self-service" registration technology. Now Manoa students input their own registration transactions by phone or Web (from anywhere in the world), and do it in the "real time" of their choice.

With the growth of Web-based technologies, we are seeing an accelerating increase in Web-based registration activity (40% of the total and growing) and a corresponding decline in telephone registration. As a result, resources currently dedicated to telephone registration will be shifted to support Web-based enrollment beginning in fall 2000.

So where do we go from here? In partnership with Outreach College and ITS, the Admissions and Records Office is actively working toward the implementation of Web-based registration services that will allow students to process all routine record transactions from any terminal connected to the Internet. These services will ultimately include: applying for admission, registering and paying for classes, processing address and telephone changes, and accessing personal academic information such as grades, transfer credit evaluations, and class schedules. While registering, students should be not more than several clicks away from viewing a class syllabus, scanning a textbook list (with prices), and other class specific information.

Faculty can expect to be provided with the means to readily post their syllabi and other relevant information on a course specific Web site. We are already working on an application that will permit instructors to download their class list into a computer-based grade book/spreadsheet and eventually faculty will be able to submit their final grades electronically.

The Office of Admissions and Records welcomes you to the third millennium. As we like to say in our office, "It only gets better...!"

Link to return to contents
Link to Infobits home page
Link to go to next article

Comments to: