Credit: Michael D Beckwith via Unsplash

Our education shouldn’t be first come first served

By Rachel Campbell

Views Columnist Rachel Campbell discusses the unfairness of MyCampus enrollment after it crashed again this year.

Enrolment: every year it brings the same issues. Yet this year they are more concerning than ever. As we enter an academic year which promises an unprecedented amount of online teaching and learning, it doesn’t inspire confidence to think that the frustrations brought about by the online enrollment system, MyCampus, have yet to be resolved.

In my two previous years, enrollment has been completely dependent on my internet connection – and the ability to navigate MyCampus quicker than my peers – to select the timetable I wanted. Going into my junior honours year, I was glad to find out that my subjects, English Literature and History, had both implemented new allocation systems to ensure a fairer way of deciding who received a place on each course. They asked for our preferences early on and then came back to us with allocated places some time later, placing a block on the enrollment process until everyone had received their allocations. This seems especially important for honours students who are hoping to streamline their learning to what they have a genuine interest in: placing my fate in Virgin Media and crossed fingers just doesn’t seem right. As a joint honours student, I did still have clashes in my timetable after receiving my allocated courses, which took some back and forth by email to work out and meant that I didn’t end up with my first choices. However, I still felt a lot better about this system than the idea that I got first pick because I was up at 9am with fibre optic broadband and had nowhere else to be for the next 4 hours.

This wasn’t the case for everyone though, even this year. When I spoke to a Politics student at the University, she told me that whilst she understood that senior honours students got priority, she didn’t find it productive to then have all the junior honours students race online on their enrollment day to try and get the spaces that were left on their preferred courses. She also noted that the communication from the Politics department was not particularly helpful: “Right up until the day of enrollment, most information about Politics courses said at the bottom: ‘This course may not be running this year.’ That was super helpful in allowing me to plan what to take before the enrollment Hunger Games began.” I’m not trying to attack the Politics department specifically; this is of course just one of the departments who have yet to implement a better system that allows fair access to the courses for all of their students, and it isn’t good enough.

It’s a case of exclusivity. After all, particularly during these uncertain times, we don’t all have fast internet at hand, and many of us are working more now to make up for our time on furlough. Does that mean that I should be less likely to get a place on my preferred course because I happen to be working an extra shift at my part-time job when the MyCampus gates open? I can’t help but think there must also be a negative effect for those who aren’t in the UK at the moment. Do they lose out if they don’t wake up at 4am to enrol because they reside in a different timezone?

Considering we are about to endeavour into a semester of classes which rely entirely on the ability of all parties to use the internet, I had hoped this year would have brought an end to these annual complaints of a badly organised system which doesn’t allow for fair opportunity. After all, it seems obvious to me, even with my limited IT knowledge, that encouraging hundreds of students to log on to one website at the same time and try to navigate it with haste to secure their preferences is a recipe for lagging, crashing, and consequently, frustration. Surely those in charge of organising our online learning should realise this too, and if they don’t, are we really going to receive the same standard of teaching this semester that we would if we were studying in person?

It’s time for all of the University’s departments to implement a better system which gives a fair opportunity to every student to study what they’re interested in. I realise not everyone can have their first choices, but having students pick several options for each semester, in order of preference, would give everyone more chance at a timetable they would be content with. This would be far better than letting the students with the slowest broadband or busiest schedules end up with the courses they’re not interested in pursuing.


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