New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Opinion: NYU’s course registration is outdated

The university’s system for course registration is counterintuitive — and in need of a long overdue update.
Kevin Wu
(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Every semester, course registration adds yet another item to students’ plates, at a time when they’re already struggling to finish up midterms and assignments. Even before registration starts, students jump through countless hoops making sure all their prerequisites are met, getting their adviser holds lifted and refreshing Rate My Professor so they don’t have a miserable semester.

So, when registration time comes around, it feels like the process should be simple — after all, we’ve already done the bulk of the work. However, NYU’s outdated and clunky interface makes what should be the easiest part of the registration process — actually enrolling in classes — much more frustrating than it needs to be. 

The mechanics of Albert, NYU’s course registration platform, have remained virtually unchanged over the last few years — and it is time that the university updated it. The counterintuitive interface, complicated waitlist systems and classes opening and closing at random make the system not just inelegant, but essentially dysfunctional.

The course search is one of the main, if not only, sources of information about classes students can take within their majors. Even though individual departments will provide lists of classes for a given semester, Albert has important information like course descriptions, meeting times and professor names. It’s an important resource, particularly for classes that are offered irregularly or just for the given semester.

However, it is often the case that the information for some courses on Albert is incomplete, even by the registration period. This could be due to a variety of reasons, whether it is because departments have not announced professors or figured out class times and locations, or just because Albert has not been updated to reflect that information. 

Either way, these missing details are a disservice to students, who should be able to know all the information about the courses they want to take before their registration time. Especially when it comes to classes that are requirements, such as those in the core curriculum, a good meeting time or a highly-rated professor are often the biggest factors for enrollment.

The core curriculum courses also have a slew of other issues. They open and close at random times throughout the week, making it difficult for students to reliably know what classes they will be able to enroll in even after their registration time arrives. There is also no way for students to receive notifications when these classes open through Albert. This makes it difficult to get into these classes — which are required to graduate — without obsessively checking the portal.

Even though there is a weekly schedule feature on Albert that shows students their enrolled classes, it is virtually unreadable. This makes it difficult for students to easily visualize their schedules while they are searching for classes, meaning they have to write them out by hand or use Google Calendar or Google Sheets. The registration portal should have a feature that shows students their schedules in a more efficient way — a calendar is not a difficult feature to include.

Waitlists are also poorly designed, even with the automated “Edit Swap” option that allows students to switch enrolled classes with waitlisted classes once they get into them. The function only lets students set up swaps between one waitlisted class and one enrolled class. So, if a waitlisted class conflicts with the meeting time of a separate course, students can’t opt to also drop that course or set up multiple swaps. As a result, if students do get off of a waitlist but it conflicts with another course, they can’t rely on the system to work correctly.

Course registration is a pivotal task. The courses we pick will determine not only what we learn for the next four months, but even the path to graduation. Given its importance to the functioning of the university, an update to Albert’s course registration is not only imperative, but long overdue.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Katherine Welander at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Katherine Welander
Katherine Welander, Copy Chief
Katherine Welander is a junior majoring in Art History and Anthropology. She is from the Bay Area, California and spends her free time reading, baking, wandering around art museums, playing Animal Crossing and drinking lots of iced lattes. You can find them on Instagram @kat.el3na.
Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

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