Registration now online after a four-day hiatus: Registrar says the system will function as expected for the Class of 2015 on Thursday

Posted by Julia Leef

Registration for fall 2012 courses began on April 10, but the new system shut down just two days later after multiple technical problems occurred while students tried to register for classes.

Registrar announced the system would be operational again at 1 p.m. April 16, and since that time there have been no new problems with the server. Students from the Class of 2013 and 2014 may complete their registration, and the Class of 2015 will register on Thursday, April 19.

"We anticipated that the system would slow down during peak times, but did not expect it to crash," Interim Registrar David DeConno said. "The feedback we received from students during simulations was that the system was fairly easy to navigate, and that has proved to be true."

Registrar instigated a new system this year to replace the old Oracle one, which had been in place since 2005. According to Chief Technology Officer Justin Sipher, Oracle announced two years ago that it would discontinue its product, support for which would end in 2013.

"We began a selection process for the new system and ultimately selected Banner," Sipher said, referring to the new system employed by the College. "It's a comprehensive solution that is used by hundreds of college and universities across the country, including other liberal arts colleges such as Vassar, Colgate, Dickinson, Middlebury, Wellesley and many others."

The College initiated the 18-month implementation process, and the system went live for the first time last fall for the admissions recruitment process for the incoming Class of 2016. Registration last week was the first time current students used the new system, Sipher said.

Along with the loss of a planning sheet, the other major change students faced with the new system was that each class would register at the same time, unlike in previous years, when students were divided into smaller groups and assigned staggered time slots.

"We looked into how other Banner schools were handling their time slots and also sought advice from their consultants," DeConno said. "We found that other similarly-sized schools handled registration by class year. Our choices were to set priority based on number of earned credits, alphabetically, or by class year. By allowing students in a particular class year to log in at the same time, everyone has a chance at the courses they want. In the past, the students in the last groupings knew for a fact that they would be closed out of many of those classes. At least they have a chance now."

Registrar and the Information Technology department worked with the system vendor to copy the registration database to a test system and use it to run successful registration simulations over the past month.

"The Banner system is the most complex system we have," Sipher said. "Its multiple servers, multiple databases and millions of lines of code all configured to map to our academic and business processes including course registration. An issue regarding the configuration of the databases was changed and this change is was we now believe will have it function as desired."

Many students received errors while trying to register for classes, and found that the system slowed down especially when dealing with upper-level courses with prerequisites.

"We received a number of calls and students visiting Harder 101," DeConno said, referring to where Registrar was stationed during registration. "Most of the questions were concerning the system performance issues. All other calls pertained to the normal problems with holds and prerequisites that we see every semester."

Registrar shut down the system on April 12 once it determined it could not fix the problem while registration was open, Sipher said, adding that the IT department worked with the software company to diagnose and fix the problem, keeping the system off-line over the weekend for a thorough analysis.

After the system shut down, approximately 1,000 of the 1,150 students from the classes of 2013 and 2014 eligible to register had enrolled in at least one course, according to DeConno. 800 students registered for 12 or more credits and approximately 290 had fewer than 12 credits. DeConno said these numbers were not very different from past semesters.

Registration is ongoing, and students in need of assistance may visit the Registrar's Office on the fourth floor of Palamountain or call extension 5710.

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