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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Editorial: Reevaluating course registration transparency

In order to make the registration process easier for students, Tufts should seek to publicize course evaluation data and make syllabi viewable before registration.

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Students browse the course offerings in the SIS catalog.

As most Tufts undergraduates can attest to, the registration process is not exactly a smooth one. Students prepare themselves days in advance; trying to ascertain as much information as possible about their options, they meet with their advisers, check Rate My Professors, read the short bios of each class on the Student Information System and then choose their classes. On the day of registration, they watch as their classes slowly but surely fill up, and finally, during their allotted time slot, they pick from what classes are left.

This process is done somewhat blindly. Students must rely on the little information provided on SIS about a specific class or on friends who have taken it already. They may turn to Rate My Professors, which offers ratings and reviews about a professor from past students. However, these reviews are made by students on opposite ends of the spectrum. Students who leave reviews typically write that they either loved or hated the professor, which is what compels them to leave the review in the first place. This makes the data found on Rate My Professors largely unreliable and an inaccurate characterization of a particular professor or class. For an important decision like choosing classes, it is alarming that Rate My Professors is currently the only way that students can find student opinions about a professor.

But, if given the proper resources, we as students wouldn’t have to rely on capricious Rate My Professors reviews. Most Tufts undergraduates fill out course evaluations at the end of every semester. These evaluations measure student attitudes toward the use of class time, the level of engagement of a class, the instructor’s organization and even the level of inclusivity achieved in a class, to name a few. These ratings and reviews are more comprehensive than the simple five-star rating and comment system offered by Rate My Professors. Additionally, the vast difference in sample size between course evaluations and Rate My Professors reviews makes course evaluations the superior and most statistically accurate form of rating and information.

So why do we have to continue to use the often inaccurate Rate My Professors website? Tufts should give students access to all evaluation results to empower them to make an informed decision about the classes for which they want to register. This model, one of full transparency, has precedent at other elite universities. Yale University, for example, has the Online Course Evaluation Student Viewer application, which allows students to view previous course evaluation results. These results are accessible through the Yale Student Self Service, preserving security while still prioritizing full transparency. This is a system that Tufts easily could — and should — employ. Currently, students cannot make informed decisions about the important, future-altering decision that is choosing their courses, and Tufts needs to make this easy fix.

Another easy solution to maintain transparency in the registration process is giving students access to syllabi before they register. Students should be able to see the roadmap of the curriculum that a syllabus provides, both to decide whether they want to take that particular course and to plan their semester accordingly. This, again, has already been implemented at other universities. The Ohio State University, for example, has the Syllabus Search site in which students can view syllabi for prospective courses. The syllabi on this site can be seen by anyone, but Tufts could implement a site behind a login page for more security. Providing syllabi prior to class registration would be an important step to increasing registration transparency at Tufts.

The registration process at Tufts is already chaotic without the added stress of not being fully informed about the classes. With some manageable changes, Tufts has the opportunity to provide more transparency and clarity to this process.