Texas State’s Associate University Registrar shares how her team transitioned to a new student scheduling process, pushing aside the way things have been done before.
Everyone remembers their first day of a new job. You meet 27 new people, try your best to give that perfect handshake – not limp but not too strong- and you just hope you don’t have lunch alone.
Each day of the COVID-19 crisis can seem like a new job. A process or communication that may have worked before is no longer effective, forcing you to shift your approach. Sentences beginning with “we used to do it this way…..” are few and far between. With time being absorbed by unplanned announcements and university-wide resource planning, the minutes spent speaking with students are critical for ensuring their academic continuity and care.
While Texas State University knew they needed to facilitate more focused student conversations and planning before the current climate, they know the need to deliver on this promise is even more pressing now. Their advisors and students began using preloading schedules to free up valuable time that was previously spent configuring schedules around work and extra-academic commitments, allowing their staff the space to connect with new students and help them understand what it will take to get their degree.
Martha Fraire-Cuellar, Texas State’s Associate University Registrar, helped coordinate the implementation process that transformed their course selection and scheduling process. Her ability to view the work with a fresh perspective has led to engagement and adoption levels to metrics the school has not seen in years past. Today, nearly 80% of Texas State University’s 38,000 students use their scheduling solution. Here’s what she learned:
Keep Everyone Informed – From student workers to vice presidents, everyone needs to be aware of the change and how it will help them. The last thing you need is to have a future student preview their loaded schedule and think they were hacked. Allow stakeholders access to run reports off of the current student population so they can easily retrieve information at their convenience. Empower vice presidents by sending them updates to keep them engaged in the process, prompting them to discuss any needs or bottlenecks with department heads.
Remind Team Why Often – Make sure your entire organization knows the WHY. At times when those in the trenches are in the middle of chaos, it is important to keep reminding them of the big picture, or the reason why the team is doing this. Making sure everyone is on board and has a unified message is not only important for buy-in from staff, but also students and parents who will question why the institution is taking that route.
Remember Who You’re Serving – Remind stakeholders that when spring registration comes around, the students who were pre-registered may need some additional guidance with their registration. In many cases, you helped build their initial schedule, similar to what they were used to in high school, and now getting them to spring into action for their following semester may require new campaigning/advertising to that population. Some of these students were in high school last year, and they’re still adjusting.
Engaging Academic Departments – Pre-registration may cause some additional needs for strategic enrollment planning, affecting faculty assignments and loads. For example: in the first few years, our English department would hire multiple professors to teach English 1. When students actually came to orientation they would present completion of the course and would drop within the add/drop period, creating an issue for the English faculty hired to teach in the fall. This problem was solved by identifying students who previously had submitted completion of the course, thus allowing us to better gauge course demands. Having the department chair keep a close look at the fluctuating enrollment numbers gave us the insight needed to adjust our process.
The Project Champion – Change is hard, and convincing an entire campus to buy into this new process can be a daunting task. However, having a person who is fully committed and can keep things positive throughout the initial chaos is crucial. This person has to be able to minimize negative reactions from staff, stakeholders, students, and maybe even parents in some cases. Having a person that can coordinate the process and has direct access to stakeholders that can help solve bottlenecks will make a huge difference and can help improve the process.
If you are assessing how to tackle course scheduling in the fall, whether you are on campus or virtual, remember that what worked before may need to be revisited. It’s possible to free up valuable time and energy to connect with your students – because we all know that is what matters most.
If you’d like to learn more about how leaders like Martha are approaching this work with College Scheduler, let’s connect. And, if you’d like tips on how to use College Scheduler with your students today, check out this video from our recent Office Hours.
New Residency Program for Registrars
Helping share the work of registrars by reflecting on the experiences, strategies, and tactics that support registration and enrollment
With new and diverse student populations, coupled with rising performance expectations and flat resources, the role of the Registrar becomes that much more integral. Civitas Learning’s newly launched “Registrars in Residence” program provides a platform where registrars, as well as enrollment and student services professionals, can connect to talk about their experiences and exchange strategies and tactics that help improve the day-to-day work of their peers. This is the first of a series of articles, interviews, and lists to help facilitate authentic conversations, and build on the practice of learning.