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Course catalog goes entirely digital

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11


John Ramatowski for the Tufts Daily

Tufts course catalogs will not appear in printer starting this semester.

Starting this semester, the Registrar’s Office is no longer offering printed versions of course catalogs, instead making class listings available online only.

Jo Ann Jack, registrar for the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, explained that there were a number of reasons for no longer printing course catalog booklets.

“This decision has been a few years in the making and factors in changes in technology, environmental concerns and trends in student behavior,” Jack told the Daily in an email. “While we are on the verge of rolling out enhanced technology for course registration, it seemed like the right time to retire the paper booklet.”

According to Jack, the environmental impact of printing lengthy course catalogs was a major motive for the change. Approximately 1,000 booklets have been recycled over the past three semesters, she added.

“First and foremost is the university’s green initiative that helped to drive this decision,” Jack said.

The change was also prompted by the fact that the booklet quickly goes out of date given the constant revisions made to courses throughout the semester, Jack said.

“We are implementing a new [Integrated] Student Information System (iSIS), which will allow for students to search for courses in an integrated way with registration,” Jack said.

Program Director for the Office of Sustainability Tina Woolston hopes that more documents will continue to go digital in the future.

“I think it’s fabulous. The thing that I would be most interested in doing ... is I would love to be able to calculate savings from that,” Woolston said.

Woolston noted that many undergraduate application materials and freshman orientation documents are now entirely online, which set a precedent for going paperless.

“We have Trunk now, so lots of professors are putting documents online on Trunk, instead of printing out handouts and syllabi and stuff like that, especially the younger professors,” Woolston added.

Ashley Siegel, a sophomore, voiced support for publishing the course catalog exclusively online.

“I think it’s good because you can seriously access the same exact thing online, so it’s a huge waste of paper for every single Tufts student,” Siegel said. “It’s a free resource, and obviously people take more than they need to sometimes, so I’m all for it.”

The transition to an exclusively online course catalog has not come without a few minor glitches, however. The course listing for the fall 2012 semester was recently re−uploaded instead of the catalog for the spring 2013 semester, causing confusion among students who were looking to plan out their class schedules.

“This was a simple mistake that was corrected as soon as we were made aware of it,” Jack said. “The program was run for the wrong term.”

Aaron Fernandez, a freshman, said that he noticed the mix−up when he was browsing through the catalog.

“We realized that those were the same professors that had taught last semester, and it was the same catalog,” he said.

Fernandez said he appreciates having the ability to browse through the catalog to see what options are available, noting that the false course listings were an annoyance that should have been avoidable.

“I feel like it should really be an issue that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge inconvenience for me, but it’s still frustrating.”

Jack is hopeful that this error will not occur in the future and expressed optimism about the future of the online service.

“We would love to be able to say that the new system will prevent the possibility of recurrences of errors,” Jack said. “There [is] always opportunity for human error to happen, however, and we work to minimize these types of issues and to provide quality service to our students, faculty and staff.”

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