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Chesapeake College online registration surging

Monday, January 10, 2011

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College student Kelly Lyons wasn’t sure online registration was something she would embrace.

"So one morning last year I was standing in this huge line waiting to register when my advisor came by and asked me why," said Lyons, who resides in Trappe. "She asked me why I was wasting my time in line when I was eligible to register online.

"It was a good question, but I didn’t have a good answer," added Lyons. "When I finally tried online registration, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use. So, now when registration opens I log on at about 6 a.m. and in a few minutes I’m signed up for my perfect class schedule. It’s great!"

Lyons is one of a growing number of Chesapeake College students using the online registration option. Chesapeake, which opens its Spring 2011 semester on January 24th, has seen a 77 percent increase in online registration since 2009.

As of Friday, 526 students had registered online compared to 369 in Spring 2010 and 297 in Spring 2009. More than 20 percent of the college’s students are now using the online registration option.

The increase has been the result of college policy changes to make more students eligible for online registration and aggressive marketing of the option.

"Online registration has so many advantages," said Joan Seitzer, Chesapeake’s dean for retention services. "You can register from the comfort of your home when it’s most convenient for you. There is no need to take off work, travel long distances, or wait in line to see an advisor."

While the college has liberalized eligibility requirements, Seitzer said policies are in place to make sure students who should see an advisor do so in order to register for classes.

"First-time students are still required to see an advisor and all students must again meet with an advisor after completing 45 credits to make sure they are on track to complete their academic programs," said Seitzer, adding rules are in place so that students who are struggling academically must meet with an advisor. "We want to ensure that students have the appropriate tools before accessing the online registration option."

As a mother of school-age children, Lyons said it’s important for her to find classes offered early in the day. As a prospective nursing major, she needs to take high-demand prerequisites.

"I have specific needs, so I always have an ideal schedule that I’m trying to set up," Lyons said. "For me, there isn’t a downside to online registration. I do my research ahead of time, so I know which classes I want and when they are offered. I recommend online to everyone because it can save you a lot of time and stress."

Despite the advantages of online registration, college officials said that option didn’t immediately catch on when it was launched a dozen years ago.

"We expected to see a huge response to the online registration option," said Dr. Richard Midcap, vice president for student success. "As a rural community college serving such a large, five-county area, it seemed like it would be perfect – but we found many people weren’t comfortable or familiar enough with the option. We needed to better prepare students for using this tool."

In addition to expanded marketing of the online option, the college rolled out more extensive training for both staff and students in using this registration feature. Students can now go to a webpage that offers step-by-step directions and screen shots that walk students through the process, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Seitzer said students who come to campus for face-to-face advising are offered the option to be walked through the online registration process after seeing an advisor. Many, like Lyons, then enthusiastically employ the online option in succeeding semesters.

Midcap said having eligible students who are comfortable with online registration use that option frees up advisor time for students who need more one-on-one attention.

"The students registering online are the ones who need very little semester-to-semester assistance," said Midcap. "They’re doing well in their classes and they have often developed long-term academic plans laying out what they need to take to complete their degrees. The students we want seeing our advisors are those who are struggling in their classes, don’t know what they should take, and could really use some guidance."

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