Registration Pains @ IITB

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For most students, the start of every semester at IITB is marked by a sense of renewed opportunity, soon-to-be-dashed optimism, confusion about what courses to take from the glut being offered, and a resigned certainty that Course Registration will only begin working a day or so after it is supposed to. Since time immemorial (which means back up to the few semesters this correspondent can remember), course registration has had the following problems –

1. It begins at a randomized delay from the announced kick-off, by a few hours minimum to a whole day at times.
2. ASC’s registration portal is slower than an H12 tum-tum stuffed to 120% capacity, and getting it loaded successfully is an achievement made up by equal parts of persistence, determination, and having nothing else to do in life for a couple of hours.
3. Incorrect, double, or missing timetable entries that throw up exceptions a student can not deal with, leading to confusion and a lot of back and forth between said student and the Academic Section.
4. Departments treating their timetables as dynamic and mutable, which means students who have their registration and timetable sorted suddenly find that two of their courses are now clashing and they need to rethink their course plan. Of course, one can argue that this flexibility in course scheduling is a feature rather than a bug.

Given this background, we tried to figure out what is happening behind the registration scenes in order to understand the issues plaguing the process. Without further ado, here goes.

There are 4 stakeholders in the process:

1. Students
We are the clients, so to speak.
2. Departments
These are the nodal bodies that actually create the data (course + instructor list, timetable, etc).
3. ASC
They create the front end we students interact with.
4. Academic Section
They collect data from the Departments and coordinate with ASC on rule changes, constraints and other such matters.

One can immediately notice that smooth running requires 3 of these stakeholders (the latter 3) to work together, in tandem, in a decentralised manner. And therein lies the rub.

The problems stated above stem mainly from bureaucratic lack of coordination between the different stakeholders. If A needs XYZ from B today, it is unlikely A will receive it until tomorrow. Anyone who has worked on a group project with members who have varying levels of enthusiasm and busy-ness (or on an Insight article panel) will know how much of a challenge it can be to get individuals to come together and create something that isn’t really anyone’s top priority. And much the same, is the fate of the registration process at IIT-Bombay.
All three entities, the Acad Section, ASC, and the Departments have work throughout the year, and when registration impinges on their schedule for a few days in the year, it just isn’t at the top of their to-do-list.

One light on the horizon (though far away) is the establishment of the new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that is currently underway and aims to streamline all processes and increase their efficiency. We hope that this will be a well thought-out, well-designed, and comprehensive system that will at least alleviate the lethargy and bugginess of the current ASC site during registration.

The other light is that the Academic Council is available to help liaise with students and the other stakeholders before, during, and after the registration process. Students facing any issues can (and do) immediately ping student reps on the council who can collate complaints and take them to Acad Section, Departments, or ASC, whomsoever can solve the issue at hand. This serves a dual purpose. Students have a much more approachable point-of-contact which is much more likely to understand the issues being faced and is also likely to get back to students with updates, and also saves the staff at the Academic Section from having to answer the same question from a 100 EE sophies about a lab and course clash (student demographic and problem chosen for representation purposes only) over and over again.

At the start of this semester, we also saw the Acad Council float a Google Sheet where common problems and the latest update on the situation were listed for quick and easy dissemination. This bodes well and one can imagine that all issues from next sem onwards can be resolved painlessly by students approaching the Acad Council who will do the needful.

Anyone with complaints or suggestions on how to improve the process can contact Insight at insight@iitb.ac.in, as always.