Computer problems - Tufts U. : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Updated 12:00 PM ET March 14, 2000

By Rachel Rubenson Tufts Daily Tufts U.

(U-WIRE) MEDFORD, Mass. -- Computer errors led to a multitude of blunders in the processing of this semester's add-drop forms, resulting in inaccuracies in many Tufts University students' schedules. The recent glitches were far worse than those experienced in any other semester, and their cause is still undetermined, as the registrar readies its new electronic registration system to register students for the fall 2000 semester.

Since the Office of the Registrar keeps no record of students who come to the office to fix errors, it is impossible to gauge exactly how many students were affected. However, according to Dean of Academic Services and Student Affairs Kristine Dillon, there were a significant number of students who had mistakes on their schedules among the estimated 10,000 add-drops that were processed this semester.

"I do know that we've had some problems this year that we haven't experienced before," she said. "The problem that I've heard about is that students have had a difficult time dropping classes... I think students most likely have gotten into the courses they were adding."

Provided that the original forms were turned in on time, students who come to the registrar's office to correct errors will not be penalized by missed add-drop deadlines. Dillon strongly urges students to verify their information through SISonline and report any problems to the registrar's office.

Technicians are currently investigating the source of the problem, but no conclusions have yet been reached. Add-drop forms are handed into the registrar each day and then scanned into the computer system each night. Registrar Jean Herbert commented that downloading errors may have occurred on one or two nights, resulting in some changes going unprocessed. "My staff tells me that the machine wasn't picking up something -- it's as if half the procedures weren't taking place," she said.

Dillon remarked that the use of felt pens on the forms, as well as paper tears, may have affected the scanner's ability to process them correctly. She said that there may be an additional cause behind the errors, since torn forms have never been a serious problem in the past, and she has asked computer programmers to examine the software to determine if there was a Y2K-related problem. "I don't know why we would have more torn forms this year than any others," she said.

Both Dillon and Herbert maintain that the problems with the add-drop forms are in no way related to the changes that have been occurring with SISonline in order to enable online registration for the fall semester. The two operate on a different system, according to Herbert, and the problems with the forms occurred in scanning them into the computer and not in uploading the information to SISonline.

Although the add-drop period has long since passed, there remains a steady stream of students coming into the registrar's office to report problems. However, Herbert comments that the errors are simple to fix and should not adversely affect students. "It's a very specific problem. They're making the changes on the spot, and the corrections are made immediately," she said.

Although the errors are easy to fix, the burden of doing so lies with the students, since they can only be discovered when a student brings them to the attention of personnel in the registrar's office. This has caused many woes for students, who have had to make multiple trips to the basement of Ballou after encountering problems when they were not on the correct class lists.

"I had switched from one section of a course into another, and it took me almost two weeks to get my grade on the first exam from the TA because my name was on the wrong list. It was very frustrating and I had to do a lot of running around between the registrar's office, my TA, and my professors," freshman Erica Bernstein said.

Dillon says that she is committed to discovering the cause of the errors so that the problem will not occur again in the fall. "What concerns me is that, at least for the fall term, we're planning to use the manual form-based add-drops, so I want to make sure that this works," she said.

In the future, improvements to the web registration process could lead to the elimination of add-drop forms, but that technology will not be developed before the fall term. However, Dillon hopes that the web registration feature allowing students to change their schedules anytime during the multiple days of registration will reduce the number of add-drops in the fall. "Add-drop is a pretty large activity, so one of the things we're hoping is that the implementation of web registration, students will not be using the add-drop anymore," she said.

-- - (, March 15, 2000

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