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Website Eases Access To Academic Records

By Faryl Ury, Crimson Staff Writer

Seniors in Adams House can now access constantly updated student records as part of a new online program that aims to help Harvard’s much-maligned advising system.

The new website allows students to access a greater variety of academic information—such as a summary of progress toward completing Core requirements—than previously available online.

And while grades and course registration have been available through the registrar’s website since 1997, the new site will now update this information continuously.

Operated by the registrar’s office, the program is being rolled out to seniors over the next couple of weeks and should be available to every undergraduate by the end of the spring term.

Adams seniors were the first to learn of the website, in a Jan. 13 e-mail from the registrar’s office.

Continuing alphabetically, Cabot and Currier seniors will gain access within the next two weeks. The registrar’s office plans to add two Houses per week in each of the following weeks, according to Arlene F. Becella, the registrar for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Within the first few days of the website’s release, 50 percent of Adams students had visited the site, Becella said.

“It gives a little more information than just our grade reports, especially which course requirements we have met and how many courses we have taken,” said Adams House resident Christopher M. Streeter ’03.

The more complete data now available online shows academic details such as out of residence courses and summer school courses, in addition to statements about transfer credit and advanced standing eligibility, said Becella. Before, students received this complete record only once a term.

Seniors are being granted access to the site first to ensure they register for all required classes in the spring and so they can see that their records are correct before graduation, Becella said.

“If students find a mistake, they can correct it early on, and that is a good thing,” said Greg C. Tucci, assistant director of undergraduate studies for the chemistry department.

When the registrar is comfortable that it is meeting the demands of the seniors, the technology will be released to the juniors all at once. Every undergraduate student should have access by the end of the year, Becella said.

“We would rather be cautious and see how it is functioning so we know how people are using it and viewing it. We like to do a real test in small numbers before we move out to everybody,” she said.

Although students are only now getting their first look at the site’s features, concentration head tutors, senior tutors and first-year advisors were given access over the past two years.

“The goal is to have students and advisors looking at the same information and being able to communicate via this tool,” Becella said.

Before a tutor meets with his student, he or she can access current information, rather than consulting often-outdated paper records. The advisor can also check if a student enrolled in the classes agreed upon, Becella said.

Tucci said he has been using this online system since September to augment his advising abilities.

“It has made being able to access information easier, has enabled me to give better advice and work with students better because I can know more about their academic records,” Tucci said.

Becella said the feedback from the advisors has been very positive and she expects a similar reaction from the undergraduates.

“We are looking forward to improving it all the time and to hearing student feedback,” she said.

More enhancements are being planned, as registrar officials hope students can eventually update personal information through the site.

Staff writer Faryl W. Ury can be reached at ury@fas.harvard.edu.

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