Opinion: Course registration doesn’t have to be a battle
As course registration subjects students to stress and fines, syllabuses should be made more accessible for increased efficiency
Course registration at American University can not only be stressful, but also inaccessible and costly. The burdens that come with registration are heightened by the inaccessibility of course syllabuses.
Syllabuses are central to understanding courses in reviewing material covered, detailing learning objectives and explaining how a course is taught. Making syllabuses available in course scheduling would shift AU’s registration process to be more efficient, as students would be more informed and less likely to be subject to AU’s financial and academic penalties for course withdrawal.
Course syllabuses are widely inaccessible at AU before classes start, as the process to attain them ahead of registration is relatively unknown and disorganized. In order to request a syllabus before committing to a course, students must email a specific department head and await their response. Finding the faculty member responsible for syllabus requests is often extremely difficult. In SPA, for example, it is only mentioned in the very last module of the SPA undergraduate advising Canvas page. This process takes up substantial time during course registration. The alternative is AU’s course syllabuses website. The website, however, has not been updated in years and is equally, if not more, unknown.
Access to course syllabuses before class registration would allow students to find course formats helpful for their education in a more informed and organized manner. With increased access to syllabuses, both students and professors can heighten learning opportunities. Syllabuses give students a full picture of the courses they sign up for, decreasing stress during registration and encouraging different kinds of instruction for professors.
Students with learning preferences, such as more interactive or lecture-style courses, would be able to narrow down courses for an education they can focus on. As students benefit from different kinds of instruction, professors may be encouraged to engage with multiple modes of instruction in class. This facilitates higher education, as students could hold classes accountable for accessibility, providing a clear incentive. Access to course syllabuses before class registration would also create a sense of urgency for professors to provide information to students. Syllabus accessibility would benefit classrooms as a whole while encouraging more inclusive and varied teaching strategies.
Syllabuses should be made accessible through AU’s course registration platform, Eagle Service, as the website is used by all students but lacks critical course information. The platform is meant to streamline course planning and student finances as a “self-service solution,” but it is part of the problem in the most foundational aspect of college education: scheduling classes.
Currently, course scheduling on Eagle Service provides brief overviews of course requirements with little substantial information regarding the courses themselves. While adding courses, students can access information on requisites, necessary books and a short course description. The course descriptions on Eagle Service, however, are identical to those provided in the American University catalog. Therefore, aside from informing students about the location and time of said courses, Eagle Service does not provide unique or particularly helpful information in course selection, when it can do so by including syllabuses.
As Eagle Service provides little concrete information about the courses themselves, such as specific material covered, assignments and timelines, AU’s two-week add/drop period becomes a frenzy of students scrambling to find courses best suited for them and their majors. Dropping a course after this period results in partial “refunds” or, more accurately, fines. Dropping a class so much as a day after the add-drop period, which would only be four classes at maximum, results in a 50 percent “refund” and a recorded withdrawal on a student’s academic record. Receiving limited information, attending a maximum of four classes and dropping a course because it was not conducive to your learning should not result in a 50 percent financial loss, especially for 15-week-long courses. If syllabuses were on Eagle Service, students could be more aware of the courses they sign up for and less likely to be put in these situations.
Equally important, the role of professors must be accounted for in this earlier access to syllabuses and potential shifts in instruction. Although I would not anticipate this change to significantly shift the workload of professors, I am unfamiliar with the course preparation done by professors to create these syllabuses. If this would create a notable increase in the intensity of course preparation teachers complete, students must stand with professors to make sure teachers are adequately compensated for this work by AU’s administration. For courses with TBD professors, generalized syllabuses with the learning outcomes set by the departments for the course should be provided.
Eagle Service can and should provide more information than a calendar. In implementing syllabuses onto the course selection website, students would be able to make decisions that benefit their learning and the broader AU community in course selection and finances. This comes with the appreciation of our professors, as the prioritization of accessibility in education is unlikely without their efforts.
Rebeca Samano is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein, Nina Heller and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Luna Jinks and Natasha LaChac.