I don’t like swallowing my pride. And when I have to, I rarely admit it publicly.
Given my rather vocal criticism of UR Student three weeks ago, and the
recommendation of my editor, I thought it a good idea to go over that piece again and give hindsight its due.
My criticisms were as follows: the interface is, at best, bad; administration’s rollout involved little to no acknowledgement of the glaring flaws; its claimed capabilities are only useful if people can figure them out.
Ultimately, I expected the entire registration process to be catastrophic.
I admit this was not the case. UR has registered for Fall 2020 classes, seemingly without a hitch or horror story. So, having registered for classes this past week, I would like to temper my criticisms.
While I maintain that the interface is needlessly complex and gave much hassle in the days leading up to registration, everything was peaceful on the day of. Registration was simple, and I managed to submit the correct schedule in under a minute. This was noticeably better than the old five-minute registration scramble.
My issues despite this smooth registration-day rollout? When I went back to check that I’d registered for the correct classes, the “Course Names” showed both the previous, now incorrect course names, and the new correct ones.
I remain confident I registered for the correct classes, but we do not pay as much as we do to attend UR for this level of confusion and uncertainty.
Another slight upside to UR Student is its scheduling capabilities. I think UR Student’s ability to allow planning schedules in advance is potentially a game changer.
Particularly for the Hajim side of campus — where courses are pretty consistent — it’s an opportunity to better (and earlier) understand their strict schedules. As a political science major, where courses are taught at the whims and interests of professors, this feature is pretty useless, but I can admit its potential for some.
Yet, as good as this advance planning might be, it’s hard to take advantage of it when the interface is so complex. In CDCS you can flick around and create radically different schedules in a few minutes — far easier than with UR Student. I know CDCS will remain people’s go-to productive procrastination site as they try to scheme how to have class only on Tuesday/Thursday two years from now. (As an aside — you should do this, I planned for a long time to see this dream realized.)
Additionally, while the University will not admit it, there are some professors it’s just better to avoid. Entire academic careers have been based on a series of bad recommendations about professors. UR might have class listings well into the future, but there probably won’t be professors’ names attached. This makes future planning more of a pipe dream than a benefit of the site.
Finally, I remain worried about the rollout of the financial side of this site.
As a student with divorced parents, it is already an incredibly difficult task to keep track of both sets of information for both FAFSA and CSS. It wasn’t easy, but my parents and I at least understand the financial systems we currently use. Training them both once was already an argument-inducing, tiring process.
Administration can say what they like, a healthy majority of our technologically-challenged parents could not have used UR Student for registration. And finding a few classes is much easier — and much less consequential — than uploading multiple tax forms, viewing financial aid, and assessing bill statements.
In the end, UR Student appears to be a capable site that needs to be made more user-friendly for a whole list of reasons. The potential is there, but did not measure up to my expectations or my tuition bill. It has the structure to be immensely streamlined, so admit the shortcomings, and improve the site. I understand the University has a lot of fish to fry at the moment, but acknowledging the necessary improvements is an easy first step. I — and I hope others will join me — praise the site’s potential, but continue to challenge those aspects which simply are not on par with the quality I know UR is capable of achieving.