Registration for spring classes provides insight for students regarding the limitations of online learning

By Victoria Gill-Gomez

News Editor

As the semester begins to come to a close, Washington College students were given two weeks to register for spring classes.

In an email from the WC Response Team on Sept. 14, the Registration window for the Spring semester was delayed by a two-week period in order to “give [the Contingency Planning Group] more time to make decisions that best support the well-being of all faculty, staff, and students, and allow for better planning and communication around course delivery.”

The new deadlines, released by the Registrar’s Office, announced registration for returning seniors from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2; registration for returning juniors from Nov. 6 to Nov. 9; registration for returning sophomore from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16; and registration for returning freshmen from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23.

Students received, or will receive, an email on the Monday of their registration week reminding them of their registration date and time.

Students are told to meet with their academic advisors to discuss their progress and selections for spring courses. Students must get approval from their advisors to register.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm, classes are planned to be conducted online and reevaluated at the end of March. At that time, the CPG will decide if it is safe to transition to a hybrid learning model for selected courses.

Rachelle Marks started working at Washington College in March 2015 in her current position as the Assistant Registrar. Her daily duties, along with the rest of the office, vary depending upon the academic calendar. Overall she evaluates degree audits for juniors preparing for senior year, builds First-Year Seminar websites, writes enrollment letters, processes transcripts, and helps students and parents via walk-ins or phone calls.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marks said that the Registrar’s Office was also thrown into a complete virtual existence. While there have been modifications to processes going digital and remote, the team is planning to have a safe on-campus return for the spring but will have one staff member available in the office everyday to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Preparing the spring schedule started in advance of the first date of registration.

“The two-week delay gave the Contingency Planning Group additional time to release the plan for the spring semester,” Marks said. “The Contingency Planning Group felt it would be unfair to the campus community to begin the process of registration if they had not announced the plan for the spring semester.  With the delay, students and faculty were able to go through the registration process knowing what the spring semester is going to look and feel like.”

According to Marks, the Registrar’s Office is continuously adapting and thinking of new and easier ways to accomplish processes with faculty, students, and staff. 

Chair and Associate Professor of Biology and Co-Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Dr. Mindy Reynolds hope to teach cellular biology in the spring semester and that this will be an easier feat.

According to Dr. Reynolds, the department has adjusted well to online learning. The faculty spent a significant amount of time throughout the summer and fall evaluating their core objectives and pedagogical approaches “to ensure we were able to continue to deliver consistent content and objectives for each of our courses” in an online format.

For many students in the sciences, the remote semester has presented challenges for online classes especially those that require labs.

“Though many of us were not able to recreate the typical hands-on laboratory experience we are still able to teach and deliver key concepts,” Dr. Reynolds said.

In return, many of the biology faculty members had the opportunity to go into greater depth about certain topics within respected disciplines than what they had been able to provide students as a strong foundation in previous semesters.

According to Dr. Reynolds, all of the department’s courses continue to reinforce key learning objectives for each student to obtain which includes scientific discovery, reading and analysis of primary literature and data, and the ability to write effectively. 

“Some classes definitely transition easier than others, but most faculty in the department will be teaching their courses as a mixture of hybrid and in-person if allowed in the spring. We are all eager to see our students in person,” Dr. Reynolds said.

The typical advisee number per faculty member in the biology department ranges from 12 to 20 students. Other than meeting on Zoom, the advising appointments were relatively the same.

“The most difficult part has been the lack of spontaneous conversations that used to happen in the hallways or from students just dropping by my office. I have also found many meetings to be more rushed and obviously less personnel,” Dr. Reynolds said. “The extension in registration has not impacted the advising of students but it did allow Chairs to spend more time thinking through course offerings.”

This has been true for junior Teddy Friedline who felt that the advising process was a bit rushed. Due to when they first got the schedule in the Self-Service portal, they had to immediately meet with their advisor for their English major. However, the registering process was overall fairly smooth, according to them.

Friedline, who is a senior by credit, registered with the senior class on Oct. 30. While they felt prepared to register for spring classes they felt like they did not have nearly enough time to plan their schedule or look at course descriptions due to the Registrar’s delays.

“I can’t say [staying home] had an overwhelming effect on my selection of classes; I didn’t go out of my way to select classes that would be easier to do online in any sense,” they said.​ “It doesn’t matter that much to me personally, in all honesty, because I’m planning on being at home, but I’m taking one Studio Art course that I hope at least some folks get to experience in-person or hybrid.”

The add/drop period for classes continues throughout the winter and beginning of the semester once registration concludes.

“Don’t overthink putting yourself on a waitlist, you never know if a seat might become available,” Marks said.

Students and faculty with questions can reach the Registrar’s Office at registrar@washcoll.edu or 410-778-7299. 

Featured Photo caption: The Registrar’s Office can be found in the basement of Bunting Hall, with a direct entrance facing Dunning Hall. Normally, while on campus, students would be able to drop off add/drop forms for their classes, major declaration forms, or speak to a Registrar staff member about questions or concerns regarding their academic status. Elm File Photo.

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