Butler students struggle to enroll in spring courses

Fairbanks Building is home to Butler’s strategic communication program, a major that suffers from many classes hitting the enrollment limit early. Collegian file photo. 

BRITTANY BLUTHARDT | STAFF REPORTER | bbluthar@butler.edu

Sophomore Ellen Ward enrolled in classes on Nov. 6 — only a week after the enrollment session opened. She was able to get into four of the seven classes she planned on taking. Ward recently was added to another course, but she is still on the waitlist for two classes, an elective and a College of Communication core requirement.

“I feel like the process is very distant,” Ward said. “[The website] is really clunky and hard to navigate. I think it really separates professors from students to have to go through multiple different channels to get to your professor.”

Ward is a double major. She studies human communication and organizational leadership as well as gender, women and sexuality studies. She shares similar scheduling issues with other students from different colleges and majors.

Students began enrolling in classes for the spring 2018 semester on Oct. 30.

The enrollment process for the spring semester begins a few months in advance with communication between the Registration and Records Department and college departments.

The registrar opens a schedule for faculty and departments to add courses until the third week of September. A month of time is set aside for changes regarding classroom locations and times before students begin enrolling in October.

University registrar Michele Neary oversees the office’s work with grade rosters, graduation audits, class scheduling and other records information.

“I can see how it can be really frustrating sometimes if you can’t get that perfect schedule,” Neary said. “In general, we’re doing our very best to make sure we have a schedule that provides what the student needs, meets degree requirements and is reasonable.There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes.”

Changes often occur due to “homeless classes,” or course sections without a classroom location. The prime time for classes is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m, but not all courses can be taken during that time so additional course sections and times must be offered.

Before students register, the registrar works with departments to negotiate new class time openings and locations. The departments determine how many students are in each section, how many sections are offered and who is teaching each section.

“I wish there were specific numbers that you could see who is taking up the spots in the class, and how many people are currently on the waitlist,” Ward said. “You can’t really tell what your chances are of getting into a class or what other options you have.”

Strategic communication is the largest major in the College of Communication. Rose Campbell, professor and chair of the department, has updated students on various course section changes and additions via email.

Many popular courses, such as STR 128, 222, 228 and 251, are capped at 10 or 12 students at the beginning of enrollment. These courses are necessary to complete a strategic communication major or minor. Campbell said they cap popular classes lower to ensure strategic communication majors and minors can get into the course.

“It’s a bit of a puzzle, but it’s our main goal to be fair to all of our students and be responsive to their needs,” Campbell said. “It’s really important for us to communicate that to the students.”

Students in STR 128, Promotional Writing, were asked to fill out a form regarding when they would like to take STR 222, the next course in succession. Campbell said this helps with section options in the future.

Allie Moffett, sophomore strategic communication major, registered for classes on Nov. 6. She did not get into two courses at first, but reached out to her advisor for help. Although she ended up in both classes, Moffett said the system could be changed.

“I don’t really understand what registration is based off,” Moffett said. “It’s really difficult because there is a prerequisite for everything.”

Departments determine whether to add another section for a semester. After a department decides, they will reach out to the registration and records office to set a new location and time for a course. This is why some classes are added later during the enrollment period, but the classes are often not during popular class times.

Students from different colleges, like the Jordan College of the Arts, with arts administration and dance administration majors, often take strategic communication courses for their degree. These interdisciplinary majors require lower-level courses.

“It’s really hard to coordinate with them, as well as include exploratory studies students,” Campbell said. “We really want those students to be able to check out our courses. They provide diversity in the classroom, which we love. It’s really a balance.”

Some colleges use a “block” schedule method for their major courses. For example, students in the dance program often have multiple classes at a set time during the day. The registrar works to offer core courses, like First Year Seminar and Global and Historical Studies, outside of their basic course time frame to accommodate their schedules. A similar process occurs for dance or arts administration students who must take strategic communication courses for their major.

“We’re making sure those are offered at an appropriate time,” Neary said. “The colleges are working together really well to plan when courses cross college boundaries.”

Taylor Fischl, junior elementary education major, did not have any problems with course scheduling. Her classes are based off a block schedule, so she automatically was added to her major classes but had some issues with core classes.

“It’s very dependent on how many students there are and the mandatory prerequisites everyone has to take,” Fischl said. “It can be really frustrating sometimes.”

Campbell said around 10 percent of exploratory students are added to popular strategic communications courses. Total class sizes end up ranging from 18 to 22 students per class, depending on the class type and the room in which it would be held.

“You start to use your resources, in terms of classrooms, to fuller capacity,” Neary said.

The course enrollment process begins more than a year and a half in advance. The schedule for 2018-19 was recently approved by the CCOM dean. Campbell said it helps to predict who will be in which course, since many students add a strategic communications major or minor in the future.

“We like to say strategic communication starts big and grows, so it’s kind of like a snowball going down a hill,” Campbell said.

Campbell said a strategic communication student can typically finish the course work in four to five semesters. Some upper level courses have one section and are offered once during the year since most students taking the classes are strategic communication majors.

“Everybody gets in who need them, so we don’t have to worry about capping the courses too low,” she said. “It can be a puzzle, but it works.”

All Butler students must meet with an academic advisor to ensure their course schedule is on track to graduate. After a meeting, the advisor will lift a hold on the student’s account which allows them to register for classes. Students can directly address professors, deans and college departments about their scheduling issues.

Stuart Glennan is a philosophy professor and the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He works with faculty members and departments to secure their course schedules. He said a student in LAS should speak with their specific department for requests regarding schedule changes.

“We’re always working to do [scheduling] better,” Glennan said. “Sometimes it just takes time.”

Glennan said enrollment will become easier as the college gains more classroom space through new academic buildings, like the Lacy School of Business. He said the university is also working to improve student advising portals and shorten the first-year advising process to cut down on enrollment confusion.

“We’re deeply concerned about trying to do this in a way that minimizes the grief for the students, instructors and advisors.” Glennan said.

Campbell said if a student is having problems getting into courses they can email professors or a college’s dean, but they should speak with their advisor first.

“Really, the advisor is your gateway,” Campbell said.

Neary, Butler’s registrar, urges students to express their course scheduling problems.

“Expressing that there’s a need is the only way for people in the departments to know what they can do to fix a problem,” Neary said.

The first day of second semester classes is Jan. 16, and the last day to add a class for credit is Jan. 22.

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