Many students have expressed confusion or frustration with recent changes to BU Brain since registration for the spring 2012 semester began last week.
When students log into BU Brain’s database of course listings for the spring semester, they are currently greeted by a list of academic departments at BU and the option of two buttons, “Course Search” or “Advanced Search.” But a message across the top of the page asks that students “please use the Advanced Search button to search for courses and view the schedule.” Next to this message is a link to a separate page that contains more detailed instructions on how to use BU Brain to enroll in classes.
The “Advanced Search” button takes students to a familiar view of how course listings used to appear on BU Brain before the recent changes, which were implemented in early October, according to Mark Reed, associate vice president of Information Technology Services (ITS). This view includes options to search for courses by the instructors that teach them as well as by the day of the week and times they are held.
However, the “Advanced Search” still requires that students select a department when searching for a class by instructor name or by date and time. To search for courses by these methods across different departments, students must click and highlight multiple departments, though they can only do so for alphabetically contiguous department names.
Reed said that ITS implemented the changes to BU’s Banner software at the direction of SUNY’s Students Information & Campus Administrative Systems (SICAS), the umbrella organization for software services SUNY-wide.
“The Friday before school started in August when freshman were registering, there was a major performance issue with the software,” Reed said. “We originally traced the problem to something SICAS had changed to the course browsing module. When they identified it after a few weeks they gave us a patch to fix it.”
Reed said that a committee of representatives of departments which frequently use the Banner system, including the Registrar’s Office and Office of Course Building and Academic Space Management, examined the patch’s changes in ITS system and approved it. The changes went live in October.
“People are certainly complaining about it, it’s not popular,” Reed said. “[ITS] doesn’t hear the complaints so much, they go to the registrar and to the [academic] departments. Some of the faculty have complained to the [Office of Course Building and Academic Space Management]. I just heard about this problem last week, after registration got started.”
He said that ITS would look into changing the course enroll routine on BU Brain in the future, but did not wish to risk altering the routine while course enrollment is currently underway.
“So long as people can get by during registration now, we’ll wait ‘till after it’s over, then go back to SICAS and say ‘this isn’t working on how we want,'” Reed said. “There’s certainly enough concern over it that we’ll look into changing it.”
Amber Stallman, assistant director for student records, said she believed the BU Brain changes originated with SunGard, the software vendor.
“It was a technology upgrade to increase functionality,” Stallman said.
She said the Registrar’s Office has received a handful of complaints from faculty members about BU Brain, but not from students.
“The new class look-up interface makes it more difficult to compare the times of two different classes,” said Constantine Thalasinos, a senior majoring in computer science. “It groups all classes by major and then groups the sections together. It’s just an inconvenience when trying to compare the times of two different sections.”
Jeremy Kimmelstiel, a senior majoring in biology, said he was also upset with the changes.
“The old system worked fine,” Kimmelstiel said. “Why change something that already works? The new system makes it so much harder when you’re searching for class sections or classes by teacher.”
Brian Davis, a junior majoring in Russian, said that he was a fan of the changes.
“I think the new system is easier,” Davis said. “When you search for math, for example, now all the sections are condensed into one place. It makes it much easier to search for classes like Calc 2, which has like 17 sections.”
He said BU Brain worked fine for him.
“I’ve heard people complain that you can’t search by professor, but you can still do that by going into advanced search,” Davis said. “I don’t think anything significant has changed.”
— Anthony Fiore and Harris Peskin contributed reporting.