Today, during class, several of my students asked if they could register for classes.
“But won’t that take a while?” I asked.
Apparently it does not. In fact, within 2 minutes of being on their computers, all my students had successfully registered for classes.
Amazed at how quickly this task was performed and because of my sincere lack of knowledge, I asked the students how the process of registering for classes goes.
With the help of the university’s online registration program, all a student had to do is enter the classes he would like to take and then the computer puts together up to 500 different class schedules, based upon the student’s preferences (night classes, morning classes, lunch breaks, etc.). Once it’s time for the student to register, he just logs on and clicks on the register button, therefore allowing the computer to figure out all the kinks in finding classes (skipping around possible schedules when a class is already full, for example) and then successfully registers the student in a matter of seconds really.
It must be nice to not have to do any work. When I was a student, we had to register for classes over the phone, and we thought this was amazing technology.
And the process was laborious. After figuring out my registration time, I would then have to scramble to get to the land line first (which was exceptionally difficult the one time I lived with 7 other students and 3 of us had the same registration time). From there I would dial the number only to be met with a busy signal. I would redial. Repeat. Repeat x 100.
Finally I would get through. Then I’d have to punch in my social security number to continue (barring I didn’t have any holds on my account like the one time I had a $3 library late fee and thus a hold was put on my registration). After the system identified me as a student, I would then enter the 5 digit class code–usually only to be met with the message that “the class is filled and closed.” From there I would have to scramble to punch in another class code and was often met with “the class is filled and closed” message yet again. This process took a half hour if I was lucky and then I still would only usually end up with 8 units, usually with one class starting at 7a.m. and the other starting at 6p.m.
There were no convenient online waitlists or a place where I could look online to see if someone had dropped the class, a luxury students have now. No. I would have to crash almost 5 classes a day to get the 16 units (if I was lucky), begging and pleading with each professor.
And today, a student just has to click a few buttons. No work on their part. To make matter worse, this ease doesn’t only affect their academic life, but their social life as well.
Of course when I was in college, I was very much like my students are today: I longed for Friday night and a chance to go out and party. The only difference is that cell phones were only employed by drug dealers and doctors. Thus, no one I knew had a cell phone. Alas, when we went to a party and the cops crashed it, we couldn’t just look to our cell phone to see who had texted with new party information. We actually had to walk home and either wait by our landline or call friends. By the time we had actually found another party and had walked over, the cops were usually breaking it up. The process would just repeat over and over again. I sometimes feel like the majority of my social time in college was spent walking around aimlessly looking for someone I knew to direct me to a party that hadn’t been broken up.
I don’t mean to sound like the clichéd parent lecturing her children about walking 6 miles to school, uphill, and in the snow. But I’m only 34. I was my student’s age 15 years ago, and while they may beg to differ, I do believe that 15 years was not that long ago.
Times have changed and not for the better, I think. College students have it too easy these days. They should have to work for the classes they get; without having to even think about what they are registering for, how will they ever work for the education and mind-expanding learning opportunity they have handed to them so easily by a computer? How will they really experience the anticipation and excitement of finding a viable party without walking around town and waiting anxiously by the phone (and sharing ONE phone with 4 other roommate who want to use it as well).
I’m really not jealous. In fact, as I watched at my student open her computer, click on a few buttons, and smile with ease knowing that she got a perfect schedule with all the classes she needed lined up back to back with a perfect hour lunch break in between, I actually felt sorry for her and thankful for the very different and frustrating and really quite laborious college experience I had.