11 Ways to Prep Your Campus for the Fall Semester Rush

11 Ways to Prep Your Campus for the Fall Semester Rush

By Kari Banjord on Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don’t look now, but summer is almost over. It won’t be long before the start of the fall semester. The first week of classes is a whirlwind: Students catch up with friends, get a feel for classes and syllabi, and settle into routines. It comes as no surprise that things don’t always go as planned.

Most returning students registered for courses months ago. After spending the first few days of the semester getting a feel for instructors and comparing notes with classmates, more than a few of them will decide to drop or swap courses and make changes to their schedules.

Many students will stop by the advising office to chat with academic advisers and make those changes in person. But the majority of them will turn where they often do: to their smartphones and tablets and laptops.

Any disruption to your online registration services or other resources during this critical time will frustrate students and faculty—and cost your institution time and money.

Want to ensure your systems are in tip-top shape for the early fall semester rush? Here are 11 changes you should consider today—as in, right now.

  1. Know about any planned maintenance to the system.
    Perform a comprehensive system audit, particularly of your registration services. Make sure your systems are up to date and that you have performed all necessary maintenance. And don’t forget to check with vendors and partners about software upgrades or regulatory changes that could impact the services you deliver to students.

  2. Ensure safe windows of time.
    Build enough time into your schedule to perform all necessary backend checks and fixes. On the front end, allow enough time for students to access the system. This will keep everyone from feeling like they have to log on at once, which should reduce traffic and keep your system from getting overloaded.

  3. Integrate mobile devices.
    Today’s students are on the go. Most of them travel with smartphones and tablets and there is a growing expectation that your systems will be designed for use on mobile devices. Be sure to test your registration services and applications on different hardware devices to ensure the technology works on different screen sizes and operating systems.

  4. Test, test, test.
    Students are coming—and that means a surge in network traffic. Before that happens, performance-test your system. Know just how much traffic your online tools and resources are equipped to handle and where those breaking points are.

  5. Expect entropy. 
    No higher education IT environment is without a little disorder. By its very nature, high user traffic creates the potential for disruption. You need to anticipate what the effects of disorder could mean for your campus environment. Make a plan; have fail-safes and workarounds in place in the event that things don’t go entirely as expected.

  6. Isolate single points of failure.
    As part of that plan, make sure to identify every potential single point of failure along the chain. Evaluate single sign on solutions, network, and web access. Take a hard look at anything that could create a single point of failure.

  7. Update your links.
    It sounds so simple, yet it’s incredibly important. Check your resource pages, including your academic catalogs and calendars. Make sure your weblinks are up to date. If students are unable to log on to the network or find what they need, you are going to receive a flood of calls and emails and problems will only snowball from there.

  8. Train your faculty and advisers.
    Despite the trend toward online registration, there is an undeniably human component to the process. People make mistakes. Sometimes, they need a little extra coaching. Make sure faculty and advisers are trained on the system so that they can readily assist students, reduce any confusion and frustration and keep the process moving.

  9. Anticipate demand for classes.
    There’s no getting around it: Some classes are just more popular than others. Review your course catalog ahead of time. Anticipate demand for courses and, where possible, adjust your schedule to ensure that there are sufficient seats. Don’t create a situation where students cannot get into required courses. Any delays could force students to veer from their academic plan.

  10. Communicate with students. 
    Getting your network in shape is important, but you can’t work in isolation. Develop a well-thought-out plan for reaching out to students and families and communicating about the registration process. Make sure students have updated their online profiles and contact information so that they can receive online alerts, such as class changes, reminders, financial aid tools and other messages from the college. And don’t forget to talk with students. Many colleges require students to meet with advisers ahead of registration or in advance of making changes to their class schedules. If this is a requirement at your college, make sure students know to do that first.

  11. Don’t let seniors slack. 
    Review student data. Any student who is close to graduation should receive a reminder to start applying for that process. Make sure students know what forms to fill out and what’s required in terms of fees and costs. If students have classes that they still need to take, make sure they know which ones and when they are offered. Always use the tools at your disposal to your best advantage.

Remember, every student who enrolls at your college has a goal. That’s why it’s important to always begin with the end in mind.

Have a suggestion for administrators preparing for the registration rush? Share it in the Comments.

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