Northeastern University Grad Studies

Simplifying Online Course Registration

  • Digital Strategy
  • Technical Consulting
  • Web Development

(01)The Challenge

Northeastern University faced a significant challenge with their online class registration process. The existing system required an estimated 8,000 graduate students to navigate through multiple networks to register for each term. This process was time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating for university students. These students had to access various disparate systems simultaneously. This included checking their degree requirements in the degree audit, reviewing official course descriptions on the university’s main website, finding available sections through the course registration system, and submitting course numbers and registration IDs into the online registration system to determine if they secured their desired classes.

Moreover, this already intricate process became even more cumbersome when complications arose. For instance, students with prerequisites unable to enroll in the appropriate sections had to seek waivers from their advisors, involving the use of an added system. Additionally, courses with corequisites such as labs, further added to the complexity, as students had to access yet another system to accommodate these requirements within their schedules. As the registration period progressed, the confusion escalated, with students having to join waitlists, sign up for alternate sections, and resolve conflicts through phone calls with the student services department. It was evident that a streamlined and unified solution was needed to simplify the registration process and provide a more efficient experience for Northeastern students.

The new Northeastern online course registration, which features a clean UI in Northeastern's red, gray, and white color palette, runs on a tablet. The user can search for courses and apply filters, add courses to a cart, view an example weekly schedule, get warnings about prerequisites, and then go to registration.

(02)The Goal

Northeastern University aimed to transform their class registration experience by simplifying the entire process and creating a unified platform. The goal was to eliminate the need for students to navigate multiple systems simultaneously and provide them with a user-friendly solution that would boost efficiency. The university sought to enhance the overall registration experience by making it less time-consuming, more intuitive, and less prone to errors and complications.

(03)The Solution

Fast Forward, in collaboration with a talented team, including the design group, internal and external client stakeholders, and technology partners, undertook the challenge of creating a comprehensive solution. They embarked on an extensive discovery process to identify opportunities and requirements for integrating the various systems while considering the human factor. Working closely with User Experience firm Zero Degrees, they reviewed clickable prototypes that were designed and tested with students, ensuring that the solution aligned with student needs, including schedule management, calendar accessibility, convenience, and goal-oriented features.

Fast Forward’s solution centered around building upon the university’s existing systems and leveraging application APIs. We developed a secure, mobile-friendly, single page application that would serve as a centralized platform for university students. Through this application, students could easily access extensive and detailed information such as available courses, course descriptions, current inventory, and an updated calendar for upcoming terms. By integrating these functionalities into a single, easily accessible place online, Fast Forward aimed to streamline the registration process, enhance user experience, and eliminate the complexities associated with disparate systems.

(04)Behind the Curtain

Multiple information systems are seamlessly integrated into a single web application using APIs. The new class registration solution introduces a powerful calendar feature, allowing students to visually build and preview their schedules before registering. A robust search functionality, powered by Solr, enables students to search by Course ID, name, or title, with advanced filtering options for location, schedule, and instructor. Real-time responses are provided when students add courses to their shopping cart, confirming successful registration or indicating blocks and warnings (e.g., co-requisite requirements).

Websphere, Drupal, Solr, Angular

Banner, Illuminate

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