MRU students registered in courses for which they did not have the necessary prerequisites did not learn that they had been deregistered from them until the first day of classes, an issue that the university’s registrar admits could have been better communicated.
Before the first day of classes the Office of the Registrar printed an internal 70-page report of every individual to be deregistered and then manually deregistered each student. Students did not learn of this until they checked their schedules or attended class only to find out they had been removed from the roster.
“When we drop the student we would like to communicate with them, but unless it is automated it is just not realistic to do that,” said David Wood, registrar for MRU. Wood explained that they have “started to lay the groundwork” for an automated approach and predicted that this approach will be in place by fall 2011.
“A student could register in a whole bunch of classes and only find out that they have no schedule on the first day of classes because they don’t have any prerequisites, and that’s not great,” Wood added. “I am not going to say it is a perfect system, because it is not right now. But it is not through lack of trying to make it as good as we can.”
Currently, it is up to the individual student to ensure they have the necessary prerequisites for a class. Each faculty sets the prerequisites for their courses as well as recommended preparation.
Daniel Mansell, a third-year open studies student, was one of the many students who learned that he had been dropped from a class when he went to attend it on the first day.
“It was kind of annoying, but for the best,” Mansell said. He signed up for Biology 1204 – The Evolution of Eukaryotes without the posted prerequisite of Biology 1202. Mansell mentioned that last year his zoology professor Michael Pollock had allowed him to continue to take a class even though he had not taken the recommended preparatory course.
Pollock explained that recommended preparation is completely different than prerequisite courses. As an associate professor in the faculty of chemical and biological sciences for that last 20 years, Pollock said he has seen his fair share of prerequisite problems.
“I know that for a long time there has been this problem that students are physically able, even if it is not advisable, to sign up for courses that they do not have the prerequisites for and the instructor never sees the student’s transcript,” Pollock said.
“In fact, it is actually fairly difficult for us to get to see that unless we have a really good reason to and so we don’t really know who has the prerequisites and who doesn’t.”
Wood said the current prerequisite system is a reactive system that causes problems with enrolment management that affects not only the students, but also the Office of the Registrar and the faculties. A course can be potentially full, but then virtually empty after the deregistration process, Wood explained.
“There are problems with the reactive model,” Wood said. “It is certainly the simplest to implement but we don’t like the idea of people scrambling at the last minute, we don’t like the impact it has on enrolment management decisions and generally it is just not the way we think it should be run.”
Wood’s plan is to create a preventative system. This system would automatically prevent students from registering for any courses that they do not have prerequisites for. He said that this could cause complications related to high school students who have self-reported their grades or students who have been given verbal consent by their faculty to take a course without the prerequisite.
Wood added that right now the issues with prerequisites become an added burden for staff in the Office of the Registrar, who face a huge workload in doing everything manually.
“It is very 19th century to do this stuff by hand, so let’s do it in a way that is more 21st century and let’s deliver on the promise and say that if this is what’s in place then this is what’s in place,” Wood said. “If we are going to deliver on (MRU President)Dave Marshall’s promise to be the best undergraduate institution that we can be, then I think that that is part of it.”