Cindy FolefackManaging Editor
The Student Success Center recently introduced a new registration system for a popular academic enrichment program after experiencing technical difficulties in prior years. The change has since received mixed results.
In late April, an email was sent out to students detailing a new pre-registration lottery for the Peer Led Team Learning Program at the Student Success Center. PLTL sessions allow students to regularly meet with a leader in groups of eight to review course material and complete practice problems for more challenging classes. The lottery, which was open from April 30 to Aug. 20, allowed students to enter by putting in their UTD emails and selecting their desired subjects. Winners were then able to sign up for PLTL sessions two days prior to general registration. Peer Education Director Ne’Shaun Jones said the change was meant to curb technical difficulties involved with the registration process.
“For years, (registration) was a mess, specifically in the fall,” Jones said. “Coursebook would crash, and that upset a lot of faculty, staff and students. We would have students that would get on four different computers to try and register for sessions…so we thought that this would be the best approach so things would run more efficiently and give everybody a fair chance to be considered for registration.”
The lottery, developed by the Provost’s Office, used a double-blind method, so staff had no control over who was selected, and the process remained completely random. PLTL manager Marie Schier said over 3,000 students signed up for the pre-registration lottery and nearly all went on to be selected for early registration. Those who weren’t selected and didn’t get their preferred sessions during general registration on Aug. 24 were given the option of going on a waitlist, which currently has 200 students in line for sessions across 13 subjects.
“I try to keep a list of those people who contact me to make sure that we have a list of people who are interested and then finding a place for them,” Schier said.
Schier said she responded to 500 emails during general registration from students who were interested in the waitlist, experiencing technical difficulties or had questions about the registration process. Biology freshman Dylan Lu, who was selected for early registration, said he had difficulty registering due to a lack of instructions in the email he received from the SSC.
“The email, truthfully, didn’t have any information on registration,” Lu said. “It just said ‘Congratulations, you’re selected,’ so I had some trouble signing up and called the (SSC). They gave me the option of signing up manually by sending them an email, but I looked up some better instructions online and I signed up.”
Lu ended up using Google to find registration instructions and said while the process delayed his registration by 20 minutes, he was still able to get his preferred sessions. Lu said his classmates who used general registration complained that Coursebook was slow or freezing up when they were trying to enroll in sessions.
“A lot of students were annoyed that they didn’t get PLTL, so they took the initiative and formed their own study groups,” Lu said. “I actually joined a study group as well, so I’m glad they took the initiative because it shows that they really want to learn.”
Schier said a technical glitch caused the emails to go out an hour after pre-registration was set to start. She added that a survey will be going out to students soon to gain feedback on areas of improvement in the registration process. Next semester, registration instructions will be included with PLTL emails. In a survey conducted by The Mercury, half of the 16 respondents reported experiencing technical difficulties during the registration process. Those who won the lottery took 10 to 15 minutes to register while those in general registration took twice as long, with one respondent reporting that it took over an hour to complete the process.
“Obviously, there are growing pains with anything when you change things, so we know it was not perfect by any stretch,” Schier said. “But hopefully within the next two to three years, it’ll become a foundational part of the culture at UTD.”
Despite the technical difficulties, both Jones and Schier said the addition of the email lottery was a major improvement to the PLTL enrollment process, especially because Coursebook did not crash during this semester’s registration. Jones said that compared to prior years, the registration process was much smoother, and the email registration lottery would continue in the future.
“Overall, I think we want it to be equitable to students, but fair to everyone,” Schier said. “I’m very pleased with the system and moving forward, I’d like to see this grow and become more stable and become part of the culture of PLTL registration.”