The College announced on Sunday that course registration for the fall semester will be postponed from April 9 until mid-June, pending a decision about whether students will be able to return to campus in the fall. Additionally, Senior Vice President of Information Technology (IT) Michael Cato notified students in an email last Thursday that class registration for next semester will feature a new interface as the result of system maintenance.
In a campus-wide email on Sunday, Senior Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth McCormack explained that the decision to postpone course registration was driven by the continued uncertainty caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The predictions about the COVID-19 outbreak are that Maine may peak in 10 days to two weeks, so there’s a lot of uncertainty on how this outbreak is going to really impact Bowdoin,” said McCormack in a video call with the Orient. “Given all that uncertainty, and given that we don’t absolutely have to lock in the curriculum now … why couldn’t we buy ourselves some time [to] let events unfold?”
McCormack also said that some faculty members had requested a delay so they could adapt their courses to the online setting, in the event that the College determines that students will be unable to return for the fall semester or will be able to do so with new restrictions.
“[Faculty] could have a much better sense of how their courses could be delivered if we had a little more time,” said McCormack. “For example, if we have a seminar course of 20 people … we could put that course in a larger classroom and people could observe social distancing if we decide we need to. There’s a lot of dimensions to explore [with] the prospect of having everybody back, but the details of what they find will have implications for how to prepare for offering courses.”
McCormack also said that a mid-June course registration process will give all students, especially those students considering studying abroad in the fall, more time and information to make a final decision about their enrollment. Students planning to study abroad next fall have until June 12 to change their minds.
According to the academic handbook, students incur a legal obligation to pay tuition and fees for the following semester except if they withdraw from the College before the start of classes.
The time frame won’t be the only new thing about course registration this year. Students will now have the option to use a new interface, “Registration Preview,” which includes a Calendar View feature that allows students to more easily identify potential scheduling conflicts. The traditional interface, “Registration Classic,” will still be available.
In an email to students, Cato acknowledged that IT was hesitant to roll out a new interface while students are away from campus but said the changes are necessary to keep the system running smoothly.
“The upgrade has been available to [the College] since 2014,” wrote Cato in an email to the Orient. “Bowdoin intentionally avoided being ‘an early adopter’ and waited until it was rolled out and vetted by some of our peer institutions.”
IT ran a pilot program last semester to test the new system, and Cato said the new interface received good reviews—two-thirds of the 15 students polled reported that the new interface was easier to use than the old one.
Despite the looming uncertainty, McCormack assured students that the College’s top priority is ensuring that students will be able to earn credit towards their degrees.
“We want to make good decisions, and having more information will help us do that,” McCormack said. “While it’s a little disconcerting that things aren’t normal, in some ways, we’re being responsive to [that] fact … in a thoughtful way.”
Editor’s Note, 6 p.m., April 10: Students incur a legal obligation to pay tuition and fees for the following semester only if they do not withdraw from the College before classes start.