A month before the start of each new semester, Sookmyungians apply for classes they wish to attend. One Sookmyungian, a senior, successfully registered for the classes she wanted because she earned a top priority. However, a second-year Sookmyungian with the lowest level of priority failed to register for all of the classes she had applied for. This problem was even harsher for students who need mandatory classes in order to complete a double major. She had to attempt modifications to her timetable on both her smartphone and computer for an entire month. Eventually she was able to get into the classes she needed and wanted, but the semester has not yet started and she is exhausted. How is it possible for students to avoid the stress caused by registration for classes?
All Pass or All Fail
Course registration at Sookmyung Women's University is not on a first-come, first-served basis like many other universities. Students at Sookmyung have to register for classes within the announced course application period, but merely pressing the join button does not guarantee that students will successfully get registered for the class. At Sookmyung, registration is based on a ranking system that is dependent on school year, former course credits, and G.P.A. For Liberal Arts classes, the rank is fourth-year followed by first, third, and second-year students. In other words, a fourth-year student who took a lot of credits the previous semester is ranked in the highest group, and a second-year student who only took a few credits the previous semester and did poorly in those classes is placed in a lowest group. However, for a first-year student who has no previous enrollment, and therefore no credits and no grades, the ranking is random. Grades are the basis of ranking in Liberal Arts subjects. All other specialty subjects are ranked according to the first major, followed by double, interdisciplinary, and then minor. Students who share the same first major are ranked according to school year: fourth, third, second, and first-year, and then after school year, rank is determined by the number of the credits taken last semester and grades in those classes. Some departments also prioritize grades, setting recommended achievement. Overall, registration at Sookmyung is determined in the order of school year, course credits, and G.P.A.
For the first semester of 2020, Sookmyungians registered from last February. SMT conducted a survey from February 9 to March 29 to examine Sookmyungians’ opinions on course registration. The survey was completed by 94 Sookmyungians in second to fourth-year. They had no difficulty registering for classes, so 98.9% (93 of 94) said they were familiar with the registration system. When asked when they registered for class, 80.9% (76 of 94) of the respondents said on the first day. However, 54.3% (51 of 89) of the participants also said they amended their timetables on the last day because ranking kept changing. In other words, though students may apply successfully for classes on day one, changes can happen during the registration period, so Sookmyungians cannot exactly establish a guaranteed timetable. While 66% (62 of 94) were generally satisfied with the current course registration, 19.1% (18 of 94) were dissatisfied. This result shows that Sookmyung’s course registration system is being met with positive and negative responses.
The definite advantages
The course registration system at Sookmyung was met with enough positivity that it could be said that it is operating well and fairly. The advantages can be classified into three distinct groups. First, students are satisfied with the period allotted to modify their timetables, which lasts the entire registration period (68.9% or 51 of 74). After enrolling in a class, Sookmyungians can later sign onto the website to check their current registration ranking level. Once one’s ranking number exceeds the number of students taking the classes, the student may opt to withdraw from the class and attempt to enroll in a different class. Because it is possible to modify one’s timetable as often as one wishes during the modification period, students are given much control over their timetables. Secondly, the current ranking system prevents an unavoidable circumstance because the application process takes some time to complete (62.2% or 46 of 74). If course registration was only limited to a single day, many students would fail to enter classes they need. However, with a flexible registration period, anyone who cannot register due to inevitable circumstances can register a later date easily. Students are aware of the fixed registration period, so they can sign onto the website at their convenience. Last, the server is stable, so students can register for classes comfortably (16.2% or 12 of 74). This reason is similar to the previous advantage. Because students are prevented from all signing up at once, the server doesn't crash or lag. Therefore, Sookmyungians are able to complete class registration. On the other hand, during the course correction period, the server crashes on day one because of too many people entering the site at the same time to enroll on a first-come, first-served basis. Sookmyungians are generally satisfied with the current course registration system knowing that they are free to modify their schedules during the course application period, that they have control of time and day when registering, and that the server does not crash.
Most universities operate on a first-come, first-served class registration system. As mentioned above, at Sookmyung, course registration is not first-come, first-served, except for pharmacy students, credit exchange students, and foreign exchange students. The first-come, first-served class registration system presents these students with a list of courses they need to take and then allows them to apply during the enrollment period. Shin Seulgi, Department of Korean Language & Literature and Literature & Creative Writing ‘19 at Dongguk University, said, “In our university, some students have even taken a leave of absence because they failed to enroll in enough course credits. I had planned to take 18 credits in the second semester of 2019, but I only succeeded in enrolling in one major course (3 credits) during course registration. I was only able to acquire the additional 15 credits during the course corrected period by selecting classes that were not in much demand.” As such, the first-come, first-served course registration system, while it may be faster, has a higher possibility of failing to allow students to enroll in courses they want. On the other hand, the course registration system at Sookmyung allows students to organize and correct their timetables as they see fit.
Nevertheless, there is dissatisfaction
Most Sookmyungians are satisfied with the course registration system. However, there were a few comments that suggested dissatisfaction. Sookmyungians were dissatisfied with the current system because it prioritizes students with good grades (40.9% or 13 of 32). At the end of each semester, Sookmyung selects students who have attained superior grades and presents them with a scholarship. Instead of scholarship, they receive extra credits, which determine their ranking the following semester class registration period. Students who have top marks get extra credit and are given priority during registration. It is possible for these students to take classes that have had good reviews or that make it easy for students to maintain top grades. This then separates the students. Second, the impact of students’ grade is too influential (28.1% or 9 of 25). School year is essential during ranking determination at Sookmyung. Fourth-year students are placed in the upper ranking group. However, second-year students are automatically placed in the lowest ranking group among students in applying for electives. Second-year students always have trouble during registration. The phrase ‘rubber ball’ refers to a second-year student, who fails to enroll in a class due to the class’ enrollment maximum limit. To solve this dissatisfaction, students are asking for modifications to the process. Regardless of expressed satisfaction among the majority of participants, there is a clear need for some change to the registration system (58.5% or 55 of 94). One Sookmyungian said, “I think that the current system should be maintained, but it should also allot for about 5~10% of opened class to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.” Son Hyoju, Division of Business Administration ’19, said, “Almost every lecture has an established prerequisite in terms of university year; for example, 'this class is recommended for second-year students'. However, the prerequisite does not inhibit enrollment during Registration as it is not reflected in student ranking. I believe prerequisite requirements, in terms of university year, should be reflected in the ranking.” Like this, Sookmyungians have recommended small changes to complement of the system that removes expressed dissatisfaction.
Complaints have also been made excluding the ranking system. This concern is the strongest one among most Sookmyungians who seek change. In a survey done by SMT, participants said the registration period was too long (18 of 54). Registration typically lasts four to five days. A Sookmyungian who participated in the survey said, “Two or three days is sufficient. Especially, the registration period for the first semester of 2020 lasted for 5 days. It was just too long.” The next complaint was about the absence of syllabuses for classes. One respondent said, “We don’t have enough information when making our timetables. We only consider class hours. Students need other information such as exam dates and information on course requirements, like that provided on a syllabus. However, sometimes the instructor does not upload a syllabus. In other cases, the professor responsible for the class is unknown.” To solve these problems, the university should better manage syllabus uploading requirements and assign professors to classes before opening them. The third concern is that students are not notified when a class is expected to be canceled. After initial registration, lectures unlikely to be filled are closed, but students are not sent an alert. One Sookmyungian said, “The alarm message is not functioning properly on Smart Sookmyung app. I didn’t know that one of my classes had been cancelled. I only knew about the closing after checking the number of enrollees in the class on Portal site directly.” To fix this cause of confusion, the university should inform Sookmyungians of closed lectures on Smart Sookmyung app.
For better Sookmyungians’ lives
The biggest advantage of the course registration system at Sookmyung is that students can apply for and enroll in classes they want. However, the course registration system at Sookmyung is not fully allowing this to happen. Most Sookmyungians feel the ranking order is fair, and that it is better than a first-come, first-served method. However, students still have complaints about some points, which needs modifications. These modifications would curb the system’s shortcomings and all Sookmyungians would then be fully satisfied with the course registration system. Course registration is very important as it decides the life of students for whole semester, so the university should listen to the grievances and make necessary improvements for a better the way it is managed.